Today marks a truly monumental anniversary: 800 years ago, at Runnymede Meadow, England, King John signed Magna Carta, June 15, 1215: [emphasis added to quotes]
Magna Carta established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law.
The Magna Carta was an inspirational document for those who wrote the U.S. Constitution. The great Daniel Hannan, someone we’ve admired for a long time for his unabashed love of freedom, recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal:
The American Revolutionaries weren’t rejecting their identity as Englishmen; they were asserting it. As they saw it, George III was violating the “ancient constitution” just as King John and the Stuarts had done. It was therefore not just their right but their duty to resist, in the words of the delegates to the first Continental Congress in 1774, “as Englishmen our ancestors in like cases have usually done.” Nowhere, at this stage, do we find the slightest hint that the patriots were fighting for universal rights. On the contrary, they were very clear that they were fighting for the privileges bestowed on them by Magna Carta. … I recount these facts to make an important, if unfashionable, point. The rights we now take for granted—freedom of speech, religion, assembly and so on—are not the natural condition of an advanced society. They were developed overwhelmingly in the language in which you are reading these words. When we call them universal rights, we are being polite. Suppose World War II or the Cold War had ended differently: There would have been nothing universal about them then. If they are universal rights today, it is because of a series of military victories by the English-speaking peoples. … Think of the world as it stood in 1939. Constitutional liberty was more or less confined to the Anglosphere. Everywhere else, authoritarianism was on the rise. Our system, uniquely, elevated the individual over the state, the rules over the rulers. When the 18th-century statesman Pitt the Elder described Magna Carta as England’s Bible, he was making a profound point. It is, so to speak, the Torah of the English-speaking peoples: the text that sets us apart while at the same time speaking truths to the rest of mankind.
Hannan shared the rather amazing fact that the American Bar Association (ABA) erected the very first monument at Runnymede in 1957! The ABA pointed out:
The fundamental concepts of liberty that had their beginnings in Magna Carta were transplanted to the American colonies where they were accepted, refined, and embedded in the instruments of government as well as the thinking of the American people. Magna Carta provided the basis for the idea of a higher law, one that could not be altered either by executive mandate or legislative acts. This concept, embraced by the leaders of the American Revolution, is embedded in the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution. Throughout American history, the rights associated with Magna Carta have been regarded as among the most important guarantees of freedom and fairness.
The article by Hannan was eye-opening in the sense that I’d never thought of the Magna Carta (or the Constitution, for that matter) as, for want of a better word, Anglo-specific. But, of course, Hannan is correct. Such systems of law are specific to English-speaking countries–the Anglosphere, as he calls it. Non-English-speaking countries, for the most part, elevate the state or the royal family or authoritarian dictators or the collective above the individual. It’s an entirely different way of thinking, as hinted at by the ABA. Currently our country is led by a person who did not grow up in the USA. Obama did not even grow up in an English-speaking country. He spent his formative years in Indonesia which, at the time, was ruled by a dictator, Sukarno, whom Obama admired to the extent of reenacting his speeches and expressing his own desire to be president (of Indonesia, apparently). Obama’s stepfather/adoptive father, an Indonesian, was a military officer in that government as well as someone related to its royal family. While in Indonesia, Obama spoke the local language and learned to think about government as Indonesians did. His mother had to force him to study hard to learn English, which she taught him at home, so that he would know the language by the time he was sent to Hawaii to live with her parents, when he was about 10. Reading between the lines, therefore, English was not Obama’s first language. Linguistic determinism is
the idea that language and its structures limit and determine human knowledge or thought, as well as thought processes such as categorization, memory, and perception. The term implies that people of different languages have different thought processes.
Thus the danger inherent in electing to high office someone who may not be a natural born citizen, but most especially someone whose formative years were spent out of touch with the American way of thinking--especially thinking about individual freedom and the source of the law of the land–which is the People. Hannan elucidates:
The idea of the law coming up from the people, rather than down from the government, is a peculiar feature of the Anglosphere. Common law is an anomaly, a beautiful, miraculous anomaly. In the rest of the world, laws are written down from first principles and then applied to specific disputes, but the common law grows like a coral, case by case, each judgment serving as the starting point for the next dispute. In consequence, it is an ally of freedom rather than an instrument of state control. It implicitly assumes residual rights. And indeed, Magna Carta conceives rights in negative terms, as guarantees against state coercion.
The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And to that extent, as radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as it’s been interpreted, and [sic] Warren Court interpreted in the same way that, generally, the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties, says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf.
Nothing is as telling as this early quote from Obama. No “constitutional law scholar” would argue that the Supreme Court (not the People, via amendment) should “break free from the essential constraints” placed in the Constitution by the Founders, by using their alleged power of interpretation. Nobody who thinks as someone who truly understands and honors the uniqueness and the genius of the Constitution of the United States would gripe that the Constitution does not specify what the government must do “on your behalf.” Americans who understand the language and the reasoning of the Constitution (and Magna Carta) also understand that the government derives its power from the People (not from the Supreme Court) and that its power consists solely of ensuring that our unalienable individual rights are preserved (not bestowed); and then the government’s job is to get out of our way, not to “do” something on our behalf, much less redistribute wealth or ensure “political and economic justice” (in other words, the progressive dreams of “social justice” and “income equality” through communism, socialism, Marxism, collectivism, or whatever “ism” you want to call it). Obama’s griping betrays a Third-World way of thinking, something that is wholly foreign to the People of the United States of America. At least, it used to be. Obama is doing his utmost best to “fundamentally transform” the USA, as is evident in, among other actions, his attempt to extra-constitutionally “legalize” millions of illegal aliens from outside the Anglosphere. Obama’s putative father was a Kenyan national who despised the British and their colonial system. When Obama moved into the Oval Office, a bust of Winston Churchill was removed and sent back to England. If he dislikes the English so much, then would it be surprising to learn that he might transfer that dislike to the U.S. system of government, which owes much to the English Magna Carta? Obama, and others, like to argue that we are not a Christian nation. Would he similarly argue that we are not an Anglo nation? If so, he would be wrong. Our roots are in England, whether Obama likes it or not. No matter the national origin of our personal ancestors, We the People speak a common language that shapes our thinking: English. At least, we used to. And perhaps that’s another reason why Obama is intent upon importing and/or legalizing as many non-English-speaking people, who won’t assimilate, as possible. It helps in his quest to “fundamentally transform” our Republic. Between linguistic determinism and the influence of a father who was an avowed anti-colonialist, is it any wonder that Obama holds no particular love for the U.S. Constitution? Of course, on this 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, Obama can be counted upon to give lip service to that document and its history, including documents inspired by it, such as the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. However, it will be just that–lip service. He won’t mean it. Actions speak far louder than words but, sometimes, in Obama’s case, even words give him away. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhVnHQVbtB8