Today in Legal History
June 15, 1215: King John of England sealed – not signed – Magna Carta, placing limits on the powers of the crown for the first time.
On the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, it’s widely known that the U.S. constitution and legal system has roots in the historic document.
Here are five facts about Magna Carta you might not know:
- Two months after King John sealed it, Pope Innocent III annulled it, declaring the King was forced to accept it by his rebelling barons. In 1225, 9-year-old King Henry III reissued an abridged version, reduced from 63 clauses to 27.
- It never refers to the concept of democracy, and it places ‘God’ in the highest position of authority, even over the king.
- It addressed women’s rights, such as making it illegal for a widow to be forced to marry her husband’s brother and protecting women from being removed from their homes before receiving inheritance.
- Just three of its original clauses are still law – granting freedom to the Church of England; protecting customs and liberties of the city of London; and outlawing arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, a precursor to trial by jury.
- In 2007, U.S. businessman David Rubinstein paid $21.3 million at auction for a 1297 Magna Carta exemplification (hand-written in abbreviated Latin). It was the most
ever paid for a single page of text. Its previous owner was Ross Perot.
If you missed it, check out the April 30 NWSidebar blog posting about President Obama’s proclamation of Law Day in honor of Magna Carta’s octocentenary.
Also on On June 15, 1804, the Twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, creating separate votes in the electoral college for president and vice-president. Previously, the original system in Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 of the Constitution, failed to adequately segregate votes for president and vice-president. This led to a tie in the 1800 election between presidential and vice-presidential candidates of the same party.