The news that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered State employees not to use personal email for official business even as she herself was conducting all her official business on personal email is a reminder of why the great lesson of Magna Carta - that even the King must be bound by the law - has to be learned anew in this second decade of the 21st century. We had a terrific response to my column on the upcoming 800th birthday of the Great Charter of Liberties*, and also to the crowdfunding appeal for John Robson and Brigitte Pellerin's anniversary documentary. I'll let George Field's note stand for many others:
Thanks for the Magna Carta Libertatum column. I have pledged $100 to the film project and it has made my day. Great to be able to support the Good Guys directly, in however small a way.
Thank you, George. If you haven't yet moseyed over to the Kickstarter site and made a pledge, do consider it. John and Brigitte are within sight of their total, but it's always touch-and-go until you actually hit it.
We ricochet around SteynOnline between defending liberty at home and western civilization abroad. But Raymond Daubney reminds us of a forebear (I presume) who tied it all together:
I have been an avid reader of Steynonline, and your other published works for sometime. You are a very worthy defender of free speech, which as you have pointed out again and again is the cornerstone of freedom. I am also pleased to support the Magna Carta documentary planned by John Robson & Brigitte Pellerin.
As I am sure you know, one of the signatories of the Great Charter, Phillip Daubeny, left for the crusades seven years after the sealing of the document by King John at Runnymede. He eventually died on crusade and was buried in the Holy Land. Today his resting place is at the entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. He went from guarding the liberty of the English to guarding the entrance way of the most important church in Christendom. Quite a story.
I hope the documentary will have a chance to touch on this fact and the stories of the great men who brought about Liberty's most influential document.
The story of Magna Carta doesn't just touch on liberty in England and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It also extends to fishing rights in British Columbia:
An important public right arising from Magna Carta is the public right to fish. You probably fished when you were a kid in Canada, but never realized that it was Magna Carta that gave you such authority. Below is an excerpt from a British Columbia court decision in Regina v. Kapp 2003 BCPC 0279:
 The Magna Carta dealt with the public right to the fishery, protecting it from being supplanted by the King's favourites where the public rights of navigation and fishing had long existed. Post-Confederation cases have confirmed this. In Attorney General for British Columbia v. Attorney General for Canada,  A.C. 153 at page 170, Haldane L.C. made this statement:
'(It) has been unquestioned law that since Magna Carta no new exclusive fishery could be created by Royal grant in tidal waters, and that no public right of fishing in such waters, then existing, can be taken away, without competent legislation. ...their Lordships entertain no doubt that this is part of the law of British Columbia.'
 The U.S. Courts, with the same legal heritage, reached a similar conclusion:
The common right, which one individual of the whole community is entitled to enjoy as much as another, cannot be made by law the exclusive privilege of the people of a certain class or section upon terms and conditions that do not apply to the whole people alike. This right which one individual has in common with every other individual in the community to take and use fish and game, ferae naturae, is one that has existed from the remotest times, and, although at one time in England after the Norman Conquest the right to take fish and game was claimed as a royal prerogative to the exclusion of the people, it was restored to them by the Barons at Runnymede in 1215, and was declared in the great charter which they wrested from King John. 'The rights,' says Green, 'which the barons claimed for themselves they claimed for the nation at large.' These rights... have come down to us from the laws of England and may be regarded as a common heritage of the English-speaking people.
Lewis v. State, (1913) 110 Ark., 204, 161 S.W. 154.
In the BC fishing industry, Magna Carta meant that all Canadians had equal access to the fishery so, despite many attempts to do so, government could not issue licenses on the basis of race, creed, colour, class or residence. Long before Canadians of Japanese ancestry could be a pharmacist, lawyer, coal miner, or hold a timber licence, they were a big presence in the BC fishing industry; it was true equality decades before Trudeau's Charter did its vicious work upon Canadian equality rights.
Keep up the good work and be thankful for your right to fish. A celebration at Runnymede on June 15th would be fun.
If you give a man a fish, you feed him for one day. If you teach a man the fishing rights of Magna Carta, you give him liberty for every day. But John H Shuba, who teaches law in a university Criminal Justice Department, worries that today's youth aren't interested in principles of freedom:
Most of our students are planning on careers in law enforcement, corrections, probation or parole. Many hope to secure positions in the always expanding federal law-enforcement apparatus. (They are always amused, but sadly not surprised, to find out that such diverse governmental entities as the Department of Agriculture and Department of Education have SWAT teams.)
I have a copy of Magna Carta (purchased near Windsor) attached to my office door. I always try to work the history of the Common Law, both before and after 1215, into my classes. Sadly there is little understanding or enthusiasm for this subject among my students. Their attitude (bless them) is that the law is simply something to be enforced without reference as to WHY it is being enforced or whether such enforcement is necessary or desirable. In a way I can't blame them – They are mostly seniors who will soon be out in the job market with at least $40,000 in school loans to pay off. Quiet reflection on the foundations of their legal heritage is something that they don't have time for. Besides they have never had to consider that their freedoms might ever be in danger and taken away. They certainly don't consider that their liberties are a natural birthright of the individual, not the gift of the paterfamilias of Big Government.
I will contribute to the Kickstarter campaign of Mr. Robson and Ms. Pellerin. As a lawyer I stand in awe of the Common Law tradition and all it has enabled mankind to achieve. This is not a fashionable view on college campuses (as you know) and is one that is either rather patronizingly indulged or met with venomous tirades on "Look what the West has historically done to __________." Yet the ability for these people to engage in such virulent nonsense can be traced to the field in 1215. The fact that David Cameron didn't know what "Magna Carta" meant was news to me but hardly surprising. (I should add that my mother and her sisters, now all passed on, were from Weston-super-mare in Somerset. They had only a basic British grammar school education. Yet they and everyone on their street really KNEW Magna Carta, Runnymede, Bosworth Field, Hastings, the Glorious Revolution and all of that - I wonder how many British schoolchildren today, not to mention British public officials, can say the same?)
We are in danger of forgetting, if we haven't already forgotten, that underneath all of the detritus of modern life, underneath the electronic devices, and instant communications and ongoing political thuggery, there is the fact of those (admittedly self-interested) barons planting that seed at Runnymede eight hundred years ago. I also pledge to do everything I can, within my small circle of friends and colleagues, to celebrate June 15th this year, perhaps with a "Magna Carta Party." (Is there such a beer or ale called "The Mead from Runnymede?") After all there might not be too many chances left. The specter of King John and rule by royal decree is looking awfully good to an awfully lot of important people these days.
John H. Shuba
John W Pfriem begs to differ:
I enjoyed your writing on Magna Carta but I think you've got it fundamentally wrong. The enduring tension in Western governance is between popular assemblies and the Sovereign. The English Civil War and Oliver Cromwell resolved this, for a few centuries at least, in favour of the parliament, and thereby re-established the long line of precedence for an appointed executive that goes back to the Germanic Things.
All Magna Carta did was reapportion privilege between the levels of the aristocracy, intra-Sovereign, if you will. In other words, the Anglo-Norman barons of 1215 were not a stand-in for the property-holding, common (non-noble) citizenry that the parliaments of the Anglosphere were supposed to empower.
John W. Pfriem
On the other hand, three-quarters of a millennium later, it empowered Stanley Holloway:
Thanks for reminding us of the importance of Magna Carta as well as encouraging support for the anniversary documentary.
I am hoping they will devote a few minutes to actor/comedian Stanley Holloway's 1975 recording of "Magna Carta", the poem written by Marriott Edgar, which ends up anticipating the modern near-corruption of the Charter's liberties:
And it's through that there Magna Charter,
As were signed by the Barons of old,
That in England to-day we can do what we like,
So long as we do what we're told.
Thanks also for bringing back my memories of listening to Holloway's humourous work some thirty-five years ago.
Ah, Marriott Edgar - there's a name that haunted my nights for a few months. Some years ago, my friend Dillie Keane and I were hired to fluff up a hoary old musical by Marriott Edgar and Vivian Ellis for a revival. Not the easiest task - Mr Edgar had passed on, but Vivian was alive and well and not the most accommodating of fellows. Once we've got the Magna Carta anniversary squared away, remind me to tell you all about it.
Jodie Newell writes from Down Under:
G'day Mark from Sydney,
How's this gem?
A video made by the UK Parliament that allegedly is designed to educate folks about the Magna Carta, has seen fit to "disable" any comments on its production.
Its "production" of stills and angry-voiced pommie males is awful (reminds one of the two-dimensional "Clutch Cargo" cartoon show ...remember those lips?) Would have much preferred real blokes with Beatle wigs on, dressed in tights, throwing half-eaten turkey drumsticks away whilst swilling jugs of apple cider!
So much for free speech coming from the UK parliament: you can't comment on a Magna Carta video. King John is alive and well editing now on YouTube.
[*CORRECTED: Liberties, plural. Thanks to everyone who objected to my taking liberties with the literal translation.]