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MAGNA CARTA


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Author Topic: MAGNA CARTA  (Read 949 times)
Bianca
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« on: December 06, 2007, 08:30:25 pm »








Levellers



The Levellers believed that all should be equal and free without distinction of class or status. They believed that Magna Carta was the ‘political bible’, which should be prized above any other law and that it could not be repealed. They prized it so highly that they believed all (such as Archbishop Laud) who “trod Magna Carta…under their feet” deserved to be attacked at all levels. The original idea was to achieve this through Parliament but there was little support, because at the time the Parliament was seeking to impose itself as above Magna Carta. The Levellers claimed Magna Carta was above any branch of government, and this led to the upper echelons of the Leveller movement denouncing Parliament. They claimed that Parliament’s primary purpose was not to rule the people directly but to protect the people from the extremes of the king; they claimed that Magna Carta adequately did this and therefore Parliament should be subservient to it.

After the Civil War, Cromwell refused to support the Levellers and was denounced as a traitor to Magna Carta. The importance of Magna Carta was greatly magnified in the eyes of the Levellers. John Lilburne, one of the leaders of the movement, was known for his great advocacy of the Charter and was often known to explain its purpose to lay people and to expose the misspeaking against it in the popular press of the time. He was quoted as saying the ground and foundation of my freedome I build upon the grand charter of England. However, as it became apparent that Magna Carta did not grant the level of liberty demanded by the Levellers, the movement reduced its advocacy of it. Welwyn, another leader of the movement, advocated natural law and other doctrines as the primary principles of the movement. This was mainly because the obvious intention of Magna Carta was to grant rights only to the barons and the episcopacy, and not the general and equalitarian rights the Levellers were claiming. Also influential, however, was Spelman’s rediscovery of the existence of the feudal system at the time of Magna Carta, which seemed to have less and less effect on the world of the time. The only right, which the Levellers could trace back to 1215, possibly prized over all others, was the right to due process granted by Clause 39. One thing the Levellers did agree on with the popular beliefs of the time was that Magna Carta was an attempt to return to the fabled pre-Norman ‘golden age’.





Diggers



However, not all such groups advocated Magna Carta. The Diggers were a very early socialistic group who called for all land to be available to all for farming and the like. Gerrard Winstanley, a leader of the group, despised Magna Carta as a show of the hypocrisy of the post-Norman law, since Parliament and the courts advocated Magna Carta and yet did not even follow it themselves. The Diggers did, however, believe in the pre-Norman golden age and wished to return to it, and they called for the abolition of all Norman and post-Norman law.
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