It is relatively unsplashy, as these things go — not very long, not very elegantly written, just 3,500 or so words of Medieval Latin crammed illegibly onto a single page of parchment.But Magna Carta, presented by 40 indignant English barons to their treacherous king in the 13th century, has endured ever since as perhaps the world’s first and best declaration of the rule of law, a thrilling instance of a people’s limiting a ruler’s power by demanding rights for themselves.In the United States, Magna Carta — it means Great Charter in Latin — is treated with a reverence bordering on worship by many legislators, scholars and judges. It is considered the basis for many of the principles that form the Constitution and Bill of Rights. And as a measure of how exciting an old piece of paper can be, in 2007 the billionaire philanthropist David M. Rubenstein paid $21.3 million to buy a (somewhat later) version of it and then put it on permanent loan to the National Archives, where anyone can see it on display.
Magna Carta, Still Posing a Challenge at 800
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