On the walls of the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. hang three documents: The original Declaration of Independence, the original Constitution, and a copy of the Magna Carta.
The Magna Carta started it all – over 800 years ago. The name is Latin for “Great Charter.” The authors didn’t name it that because they predicted its powerful impact on humanity – no, the reason was more practical: it was long – very long. It spelled out the rules that governed the freedom of the individual against the whims of despot English rulers. And it created a body of independent rule-makers i.e. England’s Parliament and our future Congress. Without those contentious bodies enforcing decisions, the words written down would be hollow efforts to hold rulers to account – just ask any Soviet citizen of the former USSR promised free speech, free worship, and free association. When the famous “two sides of the aisle” in Congress are at odds, take heart and rejoice that all opinions are being heard.
When our founding fathers gathered their thoughts on paper, they actually were Englishmen demanding what they felt were the intrusions of King George III. The concept of “no taxation without representation” had been spelled out quite nicely in article 12 of the Magna: “No scutage or aid is to be levied in our realm except by the common counsel of our realm.”
On this Independence Day, let us celebrate our historical relationship to the Angloshpere and the fact that we communicate in English. Centuries ago, our founding fathers realized that uncensored news, owning property, being innocent until proven guilty, habeas corpus, regular public elections, jury trials were essential to freedom. Today, we take these things for granted.
Let us remember why we celebrate the Fourth of July. In a time where conflicts abound, we are still united in America, founded in the belief that freedom is hard-earned and to be respected and revered.