Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Magnificent Charter

Last week I had the privilege of researching in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA. Not only is it one of the most beautiful spots on earth---completely wasted on leftist Golden Staters---but it is a treasure trove of scholarship waiting to happen. However, there is also the RR Presidential Museum attached to the library, which is a must-see for anyone who loves the Gipper. Not only does it contain materials relevant to Reagan, but it also features traveling exhibits, such as (this month) the Magna Carta of 1215 A.D.

For those of you unfamiliar with this, the Magna Carta is the predecessor to the U.S. Constitution. The "Great Charter of Freedoms," as it's called, came from a revolt by English barons that involved (naturally) taxes, infringements on the use of lands, private property rights, and above all, a right of rebellion should King John get out of hand. Although the principle was established, no nobles had ever before applied it to a king, and it laid the foundation---admittedly often broken over the next 500 or so years---that kings were subject to the law. Although John reneged on this clause as soon as he signed it, sparking a civil war, he issued it again when he began to lose. Power, as Mao said, must come from the end of a gun (or, in this case, a crossbow) after all.

By the way, the document itself had to have been written by Smurfs with x-ray vision. The print is "mouse print," and, of course, in Latin. I asked my trusty squire, Antonius Historicus, to translate it for me, but I realize many of you may not have access to his services. (Seriously, it was already translated, and the Reagan Library has copies in English, not far from a display of the Gipper's jelly bean jars.

Ronald Reagan certainly "got" the essence of the Great Charter. Perhaps a certain ruling monarch today might wish to pay a visit to the Reagan Library and Museum, if he can break away from his date nights.


  1. The sad thing is that many Americans do not understand the history or meaning of the Constitution, let alone documents like the Magna Carta that provided the basis for many of the ideas in the Constitution (and the Declaration). That is one reason that so many Americans are willing to give up basic freedoms without a fight. They don't even understand that they are giving up anything. That, in turn, can at least be partially blamed on the erosion of our educational system.

  2. The "love of power ... has been so often the cause of slavery, [but] has, whenever freedom has existed, been the cause of freedom." John Adams said that (see "A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law"). His view resonates with Adam Smith's notion of the hidden hand, which probably constituted an important block in the foundation of President Reagan's economic policy. Adams view almost certainly has roots in Calvinism, but can we say the same of Ronald Reagan?