JOHN SIGNS MAGNA CHARTA, June 19th, 1215.
When men have been working all their lives, and have earned money and bought houses, or land, or goods, it is fair that they should do with their earnings — which are called their property — what they think fit, so that they injure no one; and it is just the same if their fathers or friends have worked and left them their property.
In order, however, that we may pay soldiers and sailors to fight for us, — judges to listen to our complaints and give us justice,—ministers to see that every thing goes on well at home, and that foreigners do not harm us, — and a king to overlook, appoint, and remove all these public servants, we must give up a part of our property to the king, or, in other words, we must pay taxes. If a man has done no harm to any one, — pays all that he owes, — and fulfils all his promises, it is fair that he should have leave to go where he likes, and to live in peace, so that he too hurts no one. When a nation (which means the people of a country) are able to do what they like with their property and themselves, so that they do not injure Others, they are free; and the more free a nation is, the better, and happier, and braver it is.
|William Harvey 1796-1866, English engraver and designer.|
Title: Historical pictures, England, Soc. for the diffusion of useful knowledge. Author: England. Publisher: Knight, 1835. Original from: Oxford University, Digitized: Sep 19, 2006. Subjects: History › General History / General.
This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. This applies to the United States, where Works published prior to 1978 were copyright protected for a maximum of 75 years. See Circular 1 "COPYRIGHT BASICS" PDF. Works published before 1923, in this case 1835, are now in the public domain.
These images are also in the public domain in countries that figure copyright from the date of death of the artist (post mortem auctoris), in this case William Harvey 1796-1866, and that most commonly runs for a period of 50 to 70 years from the last day of that year.
When people are not allowed to possess any property, but must give all their earnings to their masters or their king, — and when they cannot go where they please, but may be confined or punished as their masters or their kings please, — they are slaves. Most nations are not quite free, nor yet quite slaves. In the time of King John, six hundred years ago, the English were not nearly so free as they are now; but we should be far less free than we are, if the Bishops and Abbots and Barons in King John's time had not acted bravely, and wisely, and nobly, against their bad king.
John was in the habit of casting men into prison, and taking their property, and sometimes even of putting them to death, just as he thought fit. It was his duty as king to see that any one who was injured had justice done him; but men could not get justice except after long delays, or at great expense, either of which often ruined them; and he raised taxes unjustly for his own private purposes.
The Barons, who held great estates in England, being very angry at these misdeeds of the king, assembled together with their tenants, so that they had a large army. After following the king some time, they met him at Runnimede, which is the name of a meadow between Windsor and Staines, two towns on the banks of the Thames; and, after four days' disputing with him, made him sign a parchment, in which he declared that no man in England should have his property taken from him by the king for taxes without the consent of the Parliament — that no freeman should be imprisoned without trial before the judges of the land and people of his own rank;— that the king would not refuse justice, or delay it, or sell it.
This parchment the king swore to observe. It was called the Great Charter of England, or, in Latin, "Magna Charta;" and the more the kings of England have been made to attend to it, the more free the English have been.
TEXT CREDIT: Historical pictures, England