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Ethomining The Magna Carta #1

In school I was taught that our modern form of enlightened republican government, whereby the State serves the greater good of the masses, as apposed to previous forms of government, which were simple mechanisms for exploitation of the many by the few, began with the Magna Carta and progressed through the founding documents of the United States of America to result in a Free People.

Believing this, I never bothered to read the document until I encountered the intervening documents such as the Poor Laws, Vagabond Act and various Enclosure Acts that gradually put the people of the British Isles at the mercy of a slaveholding class, which I had in turn been taught was a form of cruel, race-based greed which was exercised only against people of African origin.

Forgive me then, as I apply some hard-won working class cynicism to this glorious document of yore.

The bracketed footnotes are mine.

For the record, there is a beauty to this document that I do highly value, which is all the more striking considering the kernel of misery it came to be.

Magna Carta

Full-text translation of the 1215 edition of Magna Carta

Clauses marked (+) are still valid under the charter of 1225, but with a few minor amendments. Clauses marked (*) were omitted in all later reissues of the charter. In the charter itself the clauses are not numbered, and the text reads continuously. The translation sets out to convey the sense rather than the precise wording of the original Latin.

JOHN, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justices, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, [1] and to all his officials and loyal subjects, Greeting.

KNOW THAT BEFORE GOD, [2] for the health of our soul and those of our ancestors and heirs, to the honour of God, the exaltation of the holy Church, and the better ordering of our kingdom, at the advice of our reverend fathers Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, and cardinal of the holy Roman Church, Henry archbishop of Dublin, William bishop of London, Peter bishop of Winchester, Jocelin bishop of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh bishop of Lincoln, Walter bishop of Worcester, William bishop of Coventry, Benedict bishop of Rochester, Master Pandulf subdeacon and member of the papal household, Brother Aymeric master of the knighthood of the Temple in England, William Marshal earl of Pembroke, William earl of Salisbury, William earl of Warren, William earl of Arundel, Alan of Galloway constable of Scotland, Warin fitz Gerald, Peter fitz Herbert, Hubert de Burgh seneschal of Poitou, Hugh de Neville, Matthew fitz Herbert, Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philip Daubeny, Robert de Roppeley, John Marshal, John fitz Hugh, and other loyal subjects:

+ (1) FIRST, THAT WE HAVE GRANTED TO GOD, [3] and by this present charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired. That we wish this so to be observed, appears from the fact that of our own free will, before the outbreak of the present dispute between us and our barons, we granted and confirmed by charter the freedom of the Church's elections - a right reckoned to be of the greatest necessity and importance to it - and caused this to be confirmed by Pope Innocent III. This freedom we shall observe ourselves, and desire to be observed in good faith by our heirs in perpetuity.


1. This designation also included the servants of his various other political relations under the heading "subjects." In the listed hierarchy these are therefore the bottom rung of recognized society.

2. This is the classic invocation of a jealous and wrathful God as witness and ultimate guarantor of pacts between men. [You cosmic types might call it Karma.] This oath-binding has imbedded in it a more ancient pagan sense of ancestry and a keen sense of patrimony in regards for a concern with their inheritors. All of these elements: assertion of a higher consciousness and sense of right, respect for an ancestral ethos, and farseeing concern for one's racial inheritors are, in the year 2017, as I write, entirely absent from the political, economic and even moral life of postmodern man. Every American voter now sells not only his children but his grandchildren into debt servitude, reaffirming their perpetual servility every four years. I now look only so far as a clause which might have served as a point of departure from the ancient ways to our current mercantile ethos.

3. In this phrase, "That We Have Granted to God," this reader hears the first footstep of modernity. The audacity! Here, in 1215 we have a collective of powerful men, permitting the existence of God as if tolerating Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, in such a sense as to make it abundantly clear that God—of which the Church is a mere temporal expression—is a mere fiction serves The Power of the Collective. The complete condensed seed of modern hubris is contained in this phrase. To a modern, who most likely sees in the medieval church a pit of Hollywood-depicted corruption, focused only on torturing atheists, intellectuals and women, the following should be noted:

A) The Church served as the only advocate for the poor, for the servile classes, if sometimes corruptly and never optimally. For instance, the medieval peasant had more days off than the modern wage slave, only because the Church declared feast days to lighten their burden. The Church was all that stood between the servile class and the master class, which stood increasingly between the King and his poorest subjects.

B) This statement places God below Man, placing the Church at the mercy of the combative class, which is not the normal relationship of that social duality, which, from man's most primitive roots placed these two classes in balance. To the modern reader this may seem overblown. But consider the motions by Bishops Anselm and Wulfstan of London in and around 1102, respectively, by which these holy men denounced and preached against enslaving English boys and selling them abroad. Note that these were indigenous Anglo-Saxon priests speaking against exploitive Norman thralldom perpetrated by recently empowered Norse/French elites after the Conquest of 1066. In 1200 another church man complained of boys being sold from Bristol to Ireland. The Church, in modern parlance, was the only center for advocacy for the poor and powerless and it now had it's formerly God-granted charter granted by a militant collective, who reminded the church officials that they have freedoms and liberties only because of lordly good will.

C) The opening language stating rights and freedoms places the Divine—if you are a staunch atheist let's call it The Universe, Humanity or the Environment—beneath and beholding to the princely class, which forever undermines the ideal of kingship as divinely granted. The idea of Divine Right seems absurd to us, here at the end of Masculine Time, where all things manly are reviled. But it represented an ancient system of balance in which, in times of crisis—and medieval kings essentially only had war powers and those limited—a war chief might lead men directly without the political manipulations of an entrenched class. The ancient Spartan system which featured two kings and a council of Ephors was such a primitive form of balanced governance. From this point on—despite the rise of great warrior kings in England—the centuries would see the steady erosion of a king's ability to intervene domestically, until the point which the king of England could not enforce the will of a legally convened court in the case of a kidnapped and enslaved Anglo-Irish boy named Jemmy, despite the vast majority of Englishmen agreeing on this matter, leaving the wronged in the hands of a small, manipulative elite. So, from 1215 to 1760, England had gone from a nation where a King could free a wrongly accused man to a modern, legalistic quagmire were there was no hope among common folk that right could ever be done on their behalf, even by the most powerful man in the land.

Ultimately this sense of "We" declared in the line subjugating God to Man above, is seen by this reader as the cornerstone of the monolithic "corporate/state system" that alternative thinkers of this postmodern time have spent so much effort wrestling with.

Under the God of Things

Add Comment
jose iglesiasMay 1, 2018 10:22 PM UTC

I am very perplexed about this first clause, particularly as the following statements afterwards talks a great deal about the freedom of the church from the civil magistrate. One of the main architects of the Magna Carta was Stephen Langton ( an Occamist? sir William of Occam philosophy somewhat poisonous) This is a very difficult red pill to swallow (I always believed this to be document fueled by a christian world view) I am trying to find other sources that explain this statement "Granted to God " to mean exactly as you say that this means subjugating God to Man? I will read your book mentioned above. Thanx for the education
responds:May 2, 2018 7:50 AM UTC

It may be that Granted to God is an unfortunate translation and that there was no such explicit intent by the signers. However, when one notes that clauses protecting family from non-Christian creditors of the dead were set aside almost immediately in following editions, it becomes clear that this lauded social contract was used as a tool to break the basic element of the Christian aristocracy—the family. Most import, however, is that 98% of all folk were not the concern of this document. The rest of humanity were mere chattel. Even if the document lives up to its high praise, it is only an agreement between royals and nobles in which the rights of extra-cultural banking entities are scrupulously safeguarded far and above any protection offered to the common people. The big lie is that the Magna Carta was meant to apply to those not of the ruling elite.