Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Other Last Suppers: Where's th... | There's an Enormous Change Tak... »

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

For Sale

posted by on September 25 at 18:32 PM

I was surprised to hear the only copy of the Magna Carta in the United States—the only copy in private hands—is headed for the auction block. I thought George W. Bush had it shredded ages ago.

RSS icon Comments


Mr. Poe is surprisingly anonymous today.

Posted by Anonymous. | September 25, 2007 6:52 PM

Council votes to control cops. Wonder how ex- cop Burgess would have voted?

City Council he"This is to make sure that we not only have a strong system of police accountability but that we also have public trust," said Councilmember David Della, who co-sponsored the legislation with Nick Licata and Richard McIver.

Posted by caleb | September 25, 2007 7:10 PM

That's the Constitution you're thinking of, Dan. Yet another meaningless piece of paper!

Posted by mjg | September 25, 2007 7:28 PM

That's super clever...except the Magna Carta is British. Duh.

Posted by tree | September 25, 2007 8:02 PM

Tree and MJG: Looks like Savage is a bit smarter about the law then either of you.

Magna Carta was the most significant early influence on the extensive historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law today. Magna Carta influenced many common law and other documents, such as the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights, and is considered one of the most important legal documents in the history of democracy.

No Magna Carta, no U.S. Constitution.

Posted by Law Student | September 25, 2007 8:25 PM

Nicholas Basbanes...

Posted by Amelia | September 25, 2007 9:52 PM

You're a law student and your citing wikipedia? I'll bet you go far.

Dumbass, we don't need wikipedia to tell us that the Magna Carta was important and influential. The fact is that a joke about Bush shredding the Magna Carta is really stupid since the Magna Carta is not the Constitution or the Bill of Rights and has nothing to do with our government.

Posted by tree | September 25, 2007 11:05 PM

I needed Wikipedia to tell me what an apple is.

Posted by Mr. Poe | September 26, 2007 12:23 AM

Okay tree, outta the fuckin' pool...time for your remedial history and government classes.

Posted by gnossos | September 26, 2007 12:58 AM

This is just like the time when Tony Blair ripped up the American Constitution.

Posted by Boomer in NYC | September 26, 2007 7:33 AM

Ah, some of you idiots do not get that the Magna Carta was part of English Common law which is also part of American Common law. Newsflash, we were part of Britian at one point and we did carry common law concepts over after the revolution. And that included the Magna Carta. But given most Americans have no fucking clue what our own Constitution says I am not shocked they are even more clueless about the Magna Carta.

Posted by Suck it Jesus and Mohammed | September 26, 2007 7:35 AM

This is like that time when Tony Blair ripped up the American Constitution.

Posted by Boomer in NYC | September 26, 2007 7:45 AM

...and the French banned American cheese.

Posted by QuimbyMcF | September 26, 2007 8:18 AM

The Magna Carta is historic for putting limits on the king's power. Of course, it took centuries of struggle to get various kings to actually abide by it. Additionally, the rights laid out in it only applied to nobles -- something I'm sure King George would approve of. So, I don't really see what Dan is getting at.

Posted by keshmeshi | September 26, 2007 10:46 AM

dan is right.

bush thought it was the constitution when he shredded it.

but cheney told him to do it. he was being thorough. with the constituation gone, he thought we might fall back on it.

Posted by infrequent | September 26, 2007 10:55 AM

our right to habeaus corpus is largely based on the magna carta.

in fact, when i went to do jury duty, the nice judge who thanked us for our service told us that basically the right to trial by jury came from the magna carta as well.

so actually, the magna carta is important even to us americans.

Posted by arduous | September 26, 2007 11:46 AM

important, yes. but could you use the magna carta to appeal to a higher court? probably not. so ripping up a copy would be a highly simbolic gesture -- just as ripping up a copy of the constitution would be. only, one of the two documents is actually current law.

Posted by infrequent | September 26, 2007 12:57 PM

Despite someone's disdain for Wikipedia, where else could one immediately reference the fact that Oliver Cromwell referred to the Magna Carta as the Magna Farta?

Alternatively, and perhaps more entertainingly, please see the movie "Lion in Winter" wherein Nigel Terry as John reveals his early lack of character that will eventually set him up for the showdown at Runnymede or something.

Posted by KY. COL. of TRUTH | September 26, 2007 2:22 PM

@17: "but could you use the magna carta to appeal to a higher court?"

Hell yeah you could. In fact it comes up often in arguments over basic rights and liberties all the way up to the Supreme Court level. Appeals to principles spelled out under common law and the magna carta are both allowable and done.

Posted by gnossos | September 26, 2007 4:10 PM

@19. i did not know this. you are telling me lawyers can cite the magna carta as law in a trial? hmmm... well, i have a really hard time believing that. can you think of an example you can cite?

Posted by infrequent | September 27, 2007 9:17 AM

@20: I didn't say law, I said "principles spelled out under common law and the magna carta."

Posted by gnossos | September 27, 2007 2:26 PM

as an example:

from here:

is this:

Americans, no lovers of royal tyranny, have also embraced the document, and it has made frequent cameos in Supreme Court cases through the years. Most recently, Justice Stephen Breyer reached back to Magna Carta during oral arguments in the Yaser Hamdi detention case in order to give historical heft to his contention that detained citizens are "entitled to a neutral decision maker and an opportunity to present proofs and arguments." Breyer was alluding to one of the two clauses still on the books in Britain, one that states that "No free man shall be taken or imprisoned...except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." (The other remaining provision protects city governments from royal usurpations of their authority—an unlikely stunt for a modern British monarch, but you never know.) Justice David Souter, in his concurring opinion in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, paid similar homage. He wrote that in checking the power of the executive branch to detain citizens without having charged them with a crime, "we are heirs to a tradition given voice 800 years ago by Magna Carta."

Posted by gnossos | September 27, 2007 8:18 PM

if you google magna carta along with the name of judges/lawyers you can get some good quotes of where they have brought the document up in support of their argument.

here's another one: Solem v. Helm

cited here:

and quoted:

The Origins of Proportional Punishment
Dating back to the Magna Carta (1215), early English law expressed deep concern for proportionate punishment. Later the English Bill of Rights included the ban on cruel and unusual punishment, which the United States adopted for its Eighth Amendment. The prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment includes sentences disproportionate to the offense as well as barbaric punishment.
For over a century, the Supreme Court recognized the ban on extreme forms ofpunishment that significantly outweighed the crime. For example, in Weemsv. United States, (1910) the Court opposed a disproportionate sentence issued by the lower court. In this case a defendant received a 15-year sentence to hard labor for falsifying a public document.

Posted by gnossos | September 27, 2007 9:00 PM

eh... yeah - - it's significant. it's important. we make flowing speeches where we cite it. but that's still a far cry from the role the consititution plays. none of those examples are asking for a ruling based soley on a provision in the mc.

you shred a principle: very significant.

you shred an actual law, the highest law of the land: even more significant.

Posted by infrequent | September 28, 2007 2:38 PM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).