Letter to the editor: American heritage in the Magna Carta

The United States of America is the greatest nation, with the most individual freedom and prosperity, the world has ever seen.

An event contributing to the development of our incredible constitutional republic happened 800 years ago in June.

One of my ancestors (and perhaps yours) was among the English landowners who compelled King John at Runnymede, June, 1215 A.D., to sign the Magna Carta, which forced the King “to recognize the supremacy of ancient liberties, to limit his ability to raise funds [taxes], and to reassert the principle of ‘due process’…. acknowledging the now firmly embedded concept that no man – not even the king – is above the law…. a milestone in constitutional thought for the 13th century and for centuries to come” (this and the following quotes are from www.archives.gov).

In the early 17th century, Sir Edward Coke, “Attorney General for [Queen] Elizabeth, Chief Justice during the reign of [King] James, and a leader in Parliament in opposition to [King] Charles I, used Magna Carta as a weapon against the oppressive tactics of the Stuart kings….”

“Lord Coke’s view of the law was particularly relevant to the American experience for it was during this period that the charters for the colonies were written.  Each included the guarantee that those sailing for the New World and their heirs would have ‘all the rights and immunities of free and natural subjects.’  As our forefathers developed legal codes for the colonies, many incorporated liberties guaranteed by Magna Carta and the 1689 English Bill of Rights directly into their own statutes….”

The colonists opposed the 1765 English Stamp Act because it was “taxation without representation” and provided for admiralty court trials without a jury of their peers.  The Massachusetts Assembly declared the Stamp Act “against the Magna Carta and the natural rights of Englishmen, and therefore, according to Lord Coke, null and void.”

Massachusetts adopted a seal showing “a militiaman with sword in one hand and Magna Carta in the other.”

Just as the barons at Runnymede had written down “to the honour of God…to all free men…all the liberties” they wanted the king to recognize, our forefathers July 4, 1776, listed the violations of their God-given natural rights in their Declaration of Independence where they explained as follows:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Three of the important principles from the content and circumstances of the Magna Carta are found in our First, Second and Tenth Amendments of the Bill of Rights to our United States Constitution.

Just as the Magna Carta began by acknowledging “free will” and that the “church shall be free…and its liberties unimpaired,” our First Amendment restricts the national government from prohibiting the free exercise of religion, speech, press and assembly.

Just as the Magna Carta was violated immediately by King John and then often by later Kings and Parliaments, and enforced only by the force of arms, our Second Amendment prohibits the national Government from infringing on our right to keep and bear arms, so would-be tyrants would be afraid to violate the rest of the Bill of Rights (all at once, which is why the enemies of freedom have been using “patient gradualism” to remove one liberty at a time over decades).

Just as the Magna Carter recognized the “ancient liberties and free customs” of all “cities, boroughs, towns, and ports,” our Tenth Amendment explains that all “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Just as the Magna Carta was the supreme law of the land, all acts of our Congress, and all regulations by the Executive Branch, and all decisions by the Supreme Court which are inconsistent with our Constitution are, “according to Lord Coke, null and void.”

Otherwise, we are not what John Adams in 1779 called, “a government of laws, and not of men.”

Thomas Jefferson confirmed in the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, “that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.”

The barons 800 years ago put their lands and their lives on the line to force the King to respect ancient liberties of all freemen.

On July 4, 1776, our forefathers pledged and gave their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to protect the unalienable rights of men and women “to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.”

We have been given much by God and our ancestors, and to whom much is given much is required (Luke 12:48).

God will bless America if there are enough good people who never give up but “rise and rise again until lambs become lions,” who stand up for freedom and “proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10).

May we have the courage of June, 1215, and of July, 1776, to create sufficient understanding among Americans to support the U.S. Constitution and seek honest men and women for office (Doctrine & Covenants 98:5-10; 101:77-80), for the preservation and restoration of our Constitutional Republic, is our prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.