Richard the First, commonly called Richard the Lion-Hearted, spent but a few months of his reign in England, the country being governed during this time by various justices, under whom the constitutional arrangements organized by Henry the Second, worked quietly on, with few impediments or changes. The reign of John is characterized by the attempt of that monarch to disregard the rights both of the barons and the commons of England with the result of a new alignment of forces in England; the barons and people becoming united against the tyranny of the king. This same union, of barons and people on the one hand and the royalty on the other was, in the main, to continue to exist down to the period of the War of the Roses. To this union of the nobility and the commons must be assigned in a large measure the retention of the liberties of the people in England after they had been lost by the neighboring peoples of the continent. The contest between the king and his subjects finally culminated in that great historical spectacle at Runny-mede, where John, finding himself arrayed against practically a solid nation, granted to his people that instrument, known as one of the three great chapters of English liberties, whose importance is further emphasized by its title of "The Great Charter."

The granting of the Magna Charta was an event of importance, not only to the barons who assembled at Runnymede, and to their allies among the English people, but to all future generations of the Anglo-Saxon race, and indeed to the whole world. The principles contained in this charter, as extended and supplemented by the provisions of the later Petition of Rights, and Bill of Rights have ever since served as the fundamental basis of the rights and liberties of the English people, and more than this, extending their influence to regions of the world of which neither John nor his opponents had ever heard, have largely served as the groundwork upon which the rights of the individual rests in America and Australia. Many of the provisions of the United States Constitution and other provisions of our statutory or unwritten law can be traced back to this charter. It should be borne in mind, however, that mingled with the provisions of such great and far-reaching importance, were many others of merely temporary interest. The sixty-three articles of this Magna Charta may be divided into five clearly defined classes or provisions: 1st. Those concerned with feudal obligations. 2nd. Those having relation to the administration of law or justice. 3d. The provisions relating to cities, boroughs and commerce. 4th. Those directed against purveyance and other exactions. 5th. And finally those fundamental principles whose importance have continued down to the present day. Four clauses, viz.: the 12th, 14th, 39th, and 40th stand out preeminently from the other fifty-nine. In the first two of these are to be seen the declaration of the right of the people to be represented in Parliament and of the principle that taxation should not exist without representation. In the last two may be seen the germs of the writ of habeas corpus and of the trial by jury.

Clause 12. "No scutage or aid shall be imposed unless per commune concilium regni, except in the three cases of ransoming the king's person, making his oldest son a knight, and once for marrying his eldest daughter, and for these the aids shall be reasonable. In like manner it shall be concerning the aids of the City of London."

Clause 14. "In order to take the common council of the nation in the imposition of aids for, (other than the three regular feudal aids) and of scutage, the king shall cause to be summoned the archbishops, bishops, earls and greater barons, by writs directed to each severally, all other tenants in capite by a general writ addressed to the sheriff of each shire; a certain day and place shall be named for their meeting, of which forty days' notice shall be given; in all letters of summons the cause of summons shall be specified, and the consent of those present on the appointed day shall bind those who, though summoned, shall not have attended."

Clause 39. "No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or disseized or outlawed, or exiled or anyways destroyed; nor shall we go upon him, nor shall we send upon him, unless by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land."

Clause 40. "To none will we sell, to none will we deny or delay right or justice."1