“Magna Carta has everything going for it to be venerated in the United States: It is old, it is English and, because no one has actually read the text, it is easy to invoke to fit current needs.”
Can I get an Amen!?
MAGNA CARTA, on which King John placed his seal 800 years ago, is synonymous in the Western world with fundamental rights and the rule of law. It has been praised, admired, and appropriated, by everyone from Tea Party members to Jay Z, who called his latest album “Magna Carta Holy Grail.” Excuse me while I scratch my head.
But what about the myths? Yes, the myths in which the “Great Charter” rests upon. First, it wasn’t effective. It was a complete failure. King John was a weak leader who squandered his coffers on a war with France. Continually raising taxes to fund his European adventures, he provoked a revolt by his barons, who forced him to sign the document. But John repudiated it immediately, and the barons sought to remove him. John, the magician, avoided execution by dying before they could get their hands on him.
But even in myth, somehow the Magna Carta remains a symbol of freedom to many. Tom Ginsburg, an international law professor at the University of Chicago, offers an interesting viewpoint on the document’s history that could change the way we perceive it.
Read Tom Ginsburg’s argument de-mythologizing the famous document here: