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MAGNA CARTA

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Bianca
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« Reply #15 on: December 06, 2007, 08:46:34 pm »








Influences on later constitutions
 


Many later attempts to draft constitutional forms of government, including the United States

Constitution, trace their lineage back to this source document. The United States Supreme Court has

 explicitly referenced Lord Coke's analysis of Magna Carta as an antecedent of the Sixth Amendment's

right to a speedy trial.



Magna Carta has influenced international law as well: Eleanor Roosevelt referred to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as "a Magna Carta for all mankind".





Jews in England



Magna Carta contained two articles related to money lending and Jews in England. Jewish involvement with money lending caused Christian resentment, because the Church forbade usury; it was seen as vice and was punishable by excommunication, although Jews, as non-Christians, could not be excommunicated and were thus in a legal grey area. Secular leaders, unlike the Church, tolerated the practice of Jewish usury because it gave the leaders opportunity for personal enrichment. This resulted in a complicated legal situation: debtors were frequently trying to bring their Jewish creditors before Church courts, where debts would be absolved as illegal, while the Jews were trying to get their debtors tried in secular courts, where they would be able to collect plus interest. The relations between the debtors and creditors would often become very nasty. There were many attempts over centuries to resolve this problem, and Magna Carta contains one example of the legal code of the time on this issue:

If one who has borrowed from the Jews any sum, great or small, die before that loan be repaid, the debt shall not bear interest while the heir is under age, of whomsoever he may hold; and if the debt fall into our hands, we will not take anything except the principal sum contained in the bond. And if anyone die indebted to the Jews, his wife shall have her dower and pay nothing of that debt; and if any children of the deceased are left under age, necessaries shall be provided for them in keeping with the holding of the deceased; and out of the residue the debt shall be paid, reserving, however, service due to feudal lords; in like manner let it be done touching debts due to others than Jews.
After the Pope annulled Magna Carta, future versions contained no mention of Jews. The Church saw Jews as a threat to their authority, and the welfare of Christians, because of their special relationship to Kings as moneylenders. "Jews are the sponges of kings," wrote the theologian William de Montibus, "they are bloodsuckers of Christian purses, by whose robbery kings dispoil and deprive poor men of their goods."

Thus the specific singling out of Jewish moneylenders seen in Magna Carta originated in part because of Christian nobles who permitted the otherwise illegal activity of usury, a symptom of the larger ongoing power struggle between Church and State during the Middle Ages.
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