Charter of Liberties

‘Are you familiar with the Magna Carta?’ Camp asked me when we were comfortable settled at our usual table at our favorite seaside pub.

            ‘You mean the English Common Law from the Middle Ages? I’m superficially familiar with the term. What gives?’

            ‘A friend handed me a printout the other day pertaining to this charter of liberties of which the English barons convinced King John – yes, the one of Robin Hood fame – to give his assent to this document in June 1215 in Runnymede, along the river Thames in Surrey, about 20 miles west of London.’

            ‘Ok, why is it called the Magna Carta?’

            ‘It means ‘Great Charter’ and it was mainly composed by Cardinal Stephen Langdon as part of a mediation agreement for peace between Pope Innocent III and King John. But the Pope was infuriated by the arrogant behavior of the 25 barons who enshrined the Magna Carta into law and he annulled the Charter which he deemed a threat to his authority.’

            ‘Power and Politics?’

            ‘Yes, the usual I guess but the charter stands up through the ages while that Pope is long gone.

            ‘Ok, so how does it compare to our Charter of Rights?’

            ‘Interesting question,’ Camp said, ‘the rule of law and that no one, not even the king, is above the law has its roots in Magna Carta. It may not formally be part of Canada’s constitution but important principles and rights descend from it.’

            ‘It sounds like this Stephen Langdon and those barons had it about right over 800 years ago. I wonder what they would make of today’s politician who think themselves above the law. Like Trump. Like Putin, like De Santis. Like any despot and dictator.’

            ‘All are equal before the law, which is also enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 7. It all goes back to Magna Carta. In my view the most important document of all time.’

            ‘What about the presumption of innocence?’

            ‘Well, that is part of our Charter, section 7 and 11 and finds its evolutionary origins in chapters 39 and 40 of the Magna Carta.’

            ‘Camp you really looked at this charter of liberties.’

            ‘Well yes, it is after all the foundation for democracy, the rule of law and a fair and impartial justice system, all essential to our democracy and all of it under attack by the fascist forces in our midst who want to mold a society built on fear, wealth and superstition.’

            ‘Sounds like we would do well to go back to basic principles, well established some 8 centuries ago, in the midst of a pandemic – the plague – and when most people were illiterate and scrambled for the basics of live like shelter, food and health. Makes our modern societies look like heaven on earth, except we don’t seem to appreciate what we have and instead are on a path to mutual self-destruction.  Sad really.’

            ‘Well then, on that note we should have another pint of ale or lager. They did have beer all those centuries ago.’

            ‘In medieval England ale was the beverage of choice for the nobility, made from grain, water and yeast. Once they added hops, they had beer which became the popular drink for everyone and it also provided nutrition as well as inebriation.’

            ‘Not much has changed in that department. Oh, here comes Vicky with some liquid nutrition.’

            ‘You two seem to be in merry mood,’ she said while serving us.

            ‘We just figured out that we could live off beer. Apparently, it’s quite nutritious. It’s full of vitamins and minerals.’

            ‘Enjoy your sandwich in a glass.’

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