Unlike Money, Equality Trickles Down
Posted on April 18, 2017
The Magna Carta was imposed on King John and later Kings by rebellious barons intent on protecting their own interests. Yet they did so by establishing general principles of law, and these principles naturally expanded over time to cover additional subjects of the king, citizens. The only important clause of that charter that still remains intact in statute law in England is clause 39, on due process, which reads:
“NO Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right.”
Similarly, the US Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and its Bill of Rights were imposed to replace imperial power of kings with power and rights mostly reserved to the social class of their authors, who were rich property owners and businessmen and slave owners. Yet they did so by establishing general principles that sooner or later came to apply to almost everyone. It was those general principles that, for example, motivated the Northern armies to eliminate legal slavery in the South. It is nearly inconceivable that the North would have sacrificed so many lives and so much wealth in such a cause had there been no agreed-on historic principles to rally around.
Some leftists like denigrate the founding documents of American republican democracy as racist and classist and sexist constructs designed to advance the interests of the powerful. They have a small point that obscures a larger point. What is significant is that the founders advanced their interests by means of establishing general principles of law that hold nearly universal appeal for individuals in need of protection from exercises of arbitrary power, or who want to have a voice in governance. For that the founders are justly respected and celebrated.