Look Around! Common Law Works. Government Statute Doesn’t.

TDB's picture

Via The Daily Bell

How can something be considered a crime if there is no victim?

This is a problem. You can go through life making sure you don’t hurt anyone, and still break the law. Wouldn’t that be great if you could simply base your actions on common sense and respect for the standards of a community?

Instead, people must also make sure they don’t do anything labeled wrong by the government. Of course, it is impossible to know all the laws which the government has created. And what they call wrong is not always intuitive, nor offensive.

Government statute law goes beyond the resolution of disputes between individuals and groups. In contrast, the whole point of common law was to settle disputes in non-violent ways.

Now, there are third-party enforcers trolling around looking for a statute that has been broken. There doesn’t have to be a victim. No one has to have been wronged by the legal breach. They actually create conflict instead of resolving it. Their actions often lead to violent altercations, rather than deescalating disputes.

In an essay called “The Obviousness of Anarchy,” John Hasnas discusses the origins of common law, and how it was born out of anarchy. He says that clearly, no society can exist without governance. Part of the definition of a society is that it is somewhat organized and held together by common traditions. But that does not necessarily mean government, as the term has come to be understood.

In arguing for anarchy, I am arguing that a society without a central political authority is not only possible but desirable. That is all I am doing, however. I am not arguing for a society without coercion. I am not arguing for a society that abides by the libertarian non-aggression principle or any other principle of justice. I am not arguing for the morally ideal organisation of society. I am not arguing for utopia. What constitutes ideal justice and the perfectly just society is a fascinating philosophical question, but it is one that is irrelevant to the current pursuit. I am arguing only that human beings can live together successfully and prosper in the absence of a centralised coercive authority. To make the case for anarchy, that is all that is required.

Inevitably, there will be disputes between humans. Hasnas argues that the best society achievable is one where the entire governing structure exists exclusively to settle disputes. The rule of law was born out of trying to peacefully solve disputes that might have otherwise erupted into violence. Common law is a collection of these outcomes. Others in similar predicaments can look to precedent to see what worked to avoid violent outcomes in past similar circumstances.

…common law provides us with rules that facilitate peace and cooperative activities. Government legislation provides us with rules that facilitate the exploitation of the politically powerless by the politically dominant. The former bring order to society; the latter tend to produce strife. Hence, not only is government not necessary to create the basic rules of social order, it is precisely the rules that the government does create that tend to undermine that order.

This means there had to first be a conflict before any legal proceedings started. No Victim, no crime. Without an alleged injured party, there was nothing to resolve. People went about their business unmolested.

Courts consisted of respected members of a community who had been involved in previous conflict resolutions. They were therefore well equipt to suggest outcomes that had in the past avoided violence. Their job was to find an arrangement that satisfied both parties involved in the dispute.

English common law is, in fact, case-generated law; that is, law that spontaneously evolves from the settlement of actual disputes. Almost all of the law that provides the infrastructure of our contemporary society was created in this way. Tort law, which provides protection against personal injury; property law, which demarcates property rights; contract law, which provides the grounding for exchange; commercial law, which facilitates complex business transactions; and even criminal law, which punishes harmful behavior, all arose through this evolutionary process.

When it comes to criminal law, obviously things get a bit more complicated. But none of those complications are avoided in the current legal system. They are actually exacerbated by having the same group make the laws, enforce the laws, prosecute the cases, and judge the cases. These are no longer disinterested third parties. They have many interests wrapped up in performing their jobs to satisfy bosses and colleagues rather than victims and people in dispute.

And it is further complicated by the fact that government has mixed arbitrary statute law with laws which allow real victims recourse for wrongs done to them. But is the government really necessary to say, murder is wrong, theft is wrong, and rape is wrong?

It is true that most of our current law exists in the form of statutes. This is because much of the common law has been codified through legislation. But the fact that politicians recognised the wisdom of the common law by enacting it into statutes, hardly proves that government is necessary to create rules of law. Indeed, it proves precisely the opposite.

Rape, murder, and theft were being resolved and punished before the government codified those crimes into law. This is because victims and their families naturally have an incentive to bring suit against people who have wronged them.

In common law, the best practices naturally became widespread. The entire point is to solve a problem. The best solutions were more widely adopted.

But that doesn’t mean those solutions and methods had to be implemented in other places. Cultures are different, and communities have different values and standards. One culture may see picking an apple off a neighbor’s tree as trivial, while another may take the crime quite seriously.

But still, obeying common law does not require years of legal study.

Understanding the traditional rules of common law requires only that one be a member of the relevant community to which the rules apply, not that one be an attorney.

Government legislation, in contrast, need have no relationship to either the understanding or the moral sensibility of the ordinary person.

So it is the responsibility of an individual to understand how the rules differ from place to place. But under common law, that would only require not victimizing. If you don’t know the cultural acceptance of picking apples that don’t belong to you, don’t do it!

By contrast, governments have arbitrary statutes that are not intuitive. You may know that walking around with an open alcoholic beverage isn’t hurting anyone, yet the legality of this action differs from town to town, and state to state. The same applies to carrying a concealed weapon, possessing marijuana, and taking your shirt off. Yet none of these actions hurt anyone.

Throughout his piece, Hasnas repeatedly tells readers to look around when it comes to evidence that things can, will, and do function just fine without government law in certain areas.

Business is contracted around the world among parties from virtually all countries. Although there is neither a world government nor world court, businesses do not go to war with each other over contract disputes. News is almost always the news of violent conflict. The very lack of reporting on international business disputes is evidence that international commercial disputes are effectively resolved without the government provision of courts. How can this be?

The answer is simplicity itself. The parties to international transactions select, usually in advance, the dispute settlement mechanism they prefer from among the many options available to them. Few choose trial by combat.

What businesses avoid is American courts because of their slow speed and unpredictable rulings. And this is the main argument for why there would still be effective governance without government. Disputes, violence, and unpredictability threaten profits and wealth.

So we don’t need legislatures: all law can be created through dispute resolution. We don’t need government courts: in current situations with no government, disputes are settled just fine without violence.

And we don’t need government enforcers. They create conflict by initiating violence when a statute has been violated, even when no victim exists.

Government sponsored law enforcement is relatively recent, and society as we know it predates public police.

The proper response to the claim that government must provide police services is: look around. I work at a University that supplies its own campus police force. On my drive in, I pass a privately operated armored car that transports currency and other valuable items for banks and businesses. When I go downtown, I enter buildings that are serviced by private security companies that require me to sign in before entering. I shop at malls and department stores patrolled by their own private guards. While in the mall, I occasionally browse in the Security Zone store that sells personal and home protection equipment. I converse with attorneys and, once in a while with a disgruntled spouse or worried parent, who employ private detective agencies to perform investigations for them. I write books about how the United States Federal government coerces private corporations into performing criminal investigations for it. When I was younger, I frequented nightclubs and bars that employed “bouncers.” Although it has never happened to me personally, I know people who have been contacted by private debt collection agencies or have been visited by repo men. Once in a while, I meet people who are almost as important as rock stars and travel with their own bodyguards. At the end of the day, I return home to my community that has its own neighborhood watch.

Look around!

The most important laws that actually protect people from harm were not created by government. The most effective courts which settle disputes without violence were not created by government. And most current security which keeps us safe, investigates crime, and brings people to justice are not government forces!

No, it’s not about creating utopia. But what could exist is a society in which it becomes extremely unprofitable to be aggressive.

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Reaper's picture

The Rule of Law, common or statue, is just an arbitrary choice for US Courts, which simultaneously function as courts of law and courts of equity.  Equity is arbitrary choice of a judge.  The police/public defenders/prosecutor/judge industrial complex, or cabal, are parasites on society.  Case law or precedent is a bunch of conflicting decisions where a judge can pick whatever he wants.  

How can anyone know which precedent, which common law, which statute law, which whim of the judge to follow?  The unnoticed banner over every US Courthouse says, "Abandon all hope of Justice, ye who enter here.  Arrange payment with a lawyer connected with the judge before entering, or have available an attorney connected with the appellate court judges. "

lex parsimoniae's picture

One principle derived from the laws of nature and of nature’s God is the law of self-government. Self-government, properly understood, involves those duties man owes to the Creator, such as the duties toward God, neighbor and himself. The key idea, however, is that men are capable of directing and controlling themselves.

There is a direct inverse correlation between decreased capability to Self-govern and increased goverment statutes

GoinFawr's picture

I agree, education is the key. The more people learn to control themselves, the less controlled they need to be. Education is the path to smaller government.

GoinFawr's picture

"I am arguing only that human beings can live together successfully and prosper in the absence of a centralised coercive authority. To make the case for anarchy, that is all that is required."

 

Nope, just because something can happen, doesn't mean it's the only thing that can happen.  And since what can happen eventually will, anarchy of any stripe rapidly, inevitably, devloves to might makes right, and/or money talks, neither of which have ever promoted a reasonably just society.

Kropotkin's Anarcho-communism (which is what is being proposed here, whether the authour realizes it or no), or indeed, anarcho-whatever's problem: the duality of human nature

Ie. "One bad apple always spoils it for the rest of us." And the cleverer that sociopathic bad apple is the faster and more dramatically anarchy devolves (to fascism, usually); power adores a vacuum.

So gov't always results, in some form another, regardless of the authour's pipe dreamy kumbya-iness, or yours.

And as good as Gov't gets is a legislative assembly of democratically elected representatives mitigated by a just constitution; so long as might makes right and money talks can be kept at arm's length from it.

logicalman's picture

You make the statement 'anarchy of any stripe rapidly, inevitably, devloves to might makes right, and/or money talks'.

How could you know this?

Anarchism hasn't been tried since humans abandoned being hunter-gatherers and settled down to agriculture. As soon as people started growing enough to have a stored surplus some lazy bastard with a big stick stole it from them. Realizing that if they stole everything there'd be nobody left to steal from next year they left just enough to enable future theft.

The beginning of 'government' born of criminality and continuing to this day.

Only followers need leaders.

I am not a follower.

GoinFawr's picture

"Anarchism hasn't been tried..."

Sure it has, just, as I have made quite plain: it has never lasted. Eg. Kropotkin saw which way the wind was blowing and cut and ran (smart guy), and Trotsky got an ice pick that made his ears burn (I bet that smarted).

But if you really want to go back to the hunter-gather lifestyle of 8000 BC: good luck my little troglodyte homunculus. Bear in mind you'll need to knock off a whole lot of folk to get the successful earth's population of roughly 5 million; and that's a requirement for your ideal, not a suggestion.

You may not follow this: but you're chasing a commie pipe dream.

You follow a pipe dream, commie.

I don't follow my employees or servants, I pay them to do a job. If they don't perform competently, I fire them, even if they are civil.

... you see that right there?

Would you consider your waiter to be your leader?

logicalman's picture

Where did I say I wanted to go back to being a hunter gatherer?

I was merely pointing out where so-called government started from.

I would refuse to be your employee or servant, but I would accept payment from you as an equal for performing an agreed upon task.

As for pipe dreams, I've never had any.

You should read more carefully and not attach your own biases and thoughts into other people's words.

Anarchism has never been tried, BTW.

GoinFawr's picture

" I would refuse to be your employee or servant, but I would accept payment from you as an equal for performing an agreed upon task."

So what? who cares about your utterly irrelevant labour exchange preferences? They have nothing to do with that fact that, elected or not, a gov't employee is an employee of the government, paid to perform a service, not some 'ruler', or "leader" you are forced to "follow", at least not in the political environment I outlined. 'Rulers' have always been those who own the means of production.

"Anarchism has never (sic) been tried..."

"Anarchism hasn't been tried since..."

Make up your mealy mouthed mind already

Anyway it's as clear as an azure sky of deepest summer that I wasn't really suggesting you were pining for 8000 BC, but merely pointing out that the success of your anarcho commie fantasy's longevity is directly proportional to the population density of the planet; ie The more people around the quicker your silly anarcho communism devolves... guess where that leaves us now, Sherlock. Sorry if these premises are difficult for you, do try to keep up.

Yeah, you'll have to do better than that you commie pipe dreamer:

"Kropotkin was a proponent of a decentralised communist society free from central government and based on voluntary associations of self-governing communities and worker-run enterprises." and that was patently derived from Marx's commie endgame.

 get back to me when you actually have something resembling an argument, because simply repeating your apparently vacuous understanding of political history over and over again isn't one.

 

don't worry: I won't be holding my breath or anything.

logicalman's picture

Rambling and repeating would seem to be your forte, rather than mine.

Your inability to understand what I wrote makes all your rambling irrelevant anyway.

There's no point putting any argument in front of a rock, so I won't be wasting any time replying after this as you obvioulsly don't comprehend the written word very well.

Just for fun, answer the question - When and where has anarchism been tried?

 

GoinFawr's picture

I understand you perfectly, to me you are as transparent as freshly polished untinted glass

"When and where has anarchism been tried?" Well, aside from my example on this very thread you have claimed it existed worldwide roughly ten thousand years ago, or have you already forgotten your very own words:

"Anarchism hasn't been tried since..." - 'logical' 'man' (?)

really, the fact that you need to ask that question at all illustrates just how thickly obtuse you really are; bonne chance avec c'est, comrade.

 

ps

Just for fun: why do you refer to paid servants as "leaders"?

 

deimos178's picture

Lavrenti Beria said, "Show me the man, I'll show you the crime". Ther average person in America commits several felonies each week without knowing it.

cynicalskeptic's picture

That is because the law no longer exists to protect the individual.

The law now exists:

1) To give government added control and authority over the individual

2) To give one special interest group added advantage over another

 

Scornd's picture

the State is the victim. oh you dont think so? try driving without a licence or not registering your land w the County... oh Govt is a fiction, you say? you say this as you pay them taxes and fees... no u find out quick Govt is a real Beast with Guns, more
than you. and its an armed victim.

Arrow4Truth's picture

Haven't gotten permission (had a license) in 7-8 years. Yeah, you've got to deal with those that are armed and dangerous on occasion. I always just agree to sign their offer conditionally, then send it to the Governor and it goes away. The definition of domestic terrorism is: law enforcement. The key part is "force." Next time they try to accost me I think I'll get their information and provide it to Homeland Security. 

atomic balm's picture

"Government" as taught in theory is the fiction.  

There are armed gangs- costumed- which go around calling themselves "government"- they are quite real. . .cops, judges, and prison guards are dressed like halloween. . .

That is to say- government "for the people" is the fiction.  The people sacrificed to "government" is the reality

The head of USA dept of education said [1914]:  "Now the question is raised- do the public schools exist for the students, or do the students exist for the public schools?  The answer is the latter."  Such open admissions are very rare.

Does the government exist for the taxpayer, or does the taxpayer exist for government?

Does the fed exist for the economy, or does the economy exist for the fed?

Does the Church exist for the masses, or do the masses exists for the Church?

Inquiring minds would like to know.

ByTheCross's picture

Ceteris paribus, common law is sufficient and ample for civilisation.

Unfortunately. Homo sapiens does not occupy a stable environment, and so, having determined that the right of the species trumps the rights of its members, common law is usurped - by and large.

Isolated pockets may occur from time to time, but they will be overtaken, e.g. Australian aborigines, Native Americans, etc.

Governments may be instituted among men on a pretext of delivering common law, but as should be obvious by now, this is not what they do.

Those who institute governments are those who pursue the interest of the species.

 

Friedrich not Salma's picture

"Among reasonable people" should be added to everything mentioned in the article and comments here.
Speeding on a highway, transactions for sex, inhaling a smoking leaf, taking an orange, carrying friends in the back of a pickup truck and lighting a bon fire are all non-offenses when carried out among reasonable people. The problem is when dipforks are careening through traffic or burning forests. As much as I dislike the enforcement of such laws, the older I get and the more I see clueless irresponsible dumbforks, I realize the need for deterrence for victimless crimes. The State needs to exercise better judgement for how to do this. Perhaps we-the-people should be more involved in electing the enforcers who dole out punishment.

Flankspeed60's picture

If the choice were strictly one or the other - 'dumbforks' or government, I'll take my chances with the former. An occasional rogue civilian is much easier to manage than the the inevitable leviathians that grow like cancers when given the authority to exercise power over others.

MaxThrust's picture

"is much easier to manage than the the inevitable leviathians that grow like cancers when given the authority to exercise power over others."

The solution to this is funding. The citizens should always have control of the government's budget. Whether that be County, State or Federal. The citizens don't need to be involved in the nitty-gritty stuff that make up a budget but they do need control over the total amount asked for and the right to veto increases in budgets.

That is the easiest way to control government.

logicalman's picture

The last person who should be given power over others is he who wants it.

MaxFreedom's picture

Liquidate the government.

It does nothing well.

Next question.

 

logicalman's picture

What do you mean???

Government is good at all sorts of things, wasting money, corruption, destroying lives .........

to name but 3.

Twee Surgeon's picture

A Statute is a Statutory Instrument. A Statutory Instrument is an Agreement between two or more parties, a Contract or Voluntary Contract.

A 'Drivers License' is a Statutory Instrument. You Volunteer to enter into a Contract with the State in exchange for their protection on the Highways and have agreed to give up certain constitutional rights (Free Travel on Public Highways being the most obvious.) The truth is out there. It's a racket.

http://www.lawfulpath.com/ref/DLbrief.shtml

logicalman's picture

A license is just a fee to break the law, it would seem.

Fishing is illegal until you pay a fee the break the law.

Driving is a whole different thing.

Technically, you are not a 'driver' unless you are being paid - you are not a 'passenger' if you are not paying.

Two people in a car are just excercising their 'right' (?) to freedom of travel using a car to facilitate it. Try telling that to a cop!

A license, as it can be revoked, functions in a similar way as a leash functions on a dog.

If I harm nobody intentionally or knowingly I should have nothing to worry about.

Statutes carrying fines are just another form of taxation.

Imagine how many lawyers would be unemployed if you were allowed to confront your accuser in front of a jury of your peers (peers doesn't mean someone randomly dragged in off the street).

There's lawful and there's 'legal' - they are in no way equivalent.

 

fulliautomatix's picture

gummint doesn't recognise the harm they do - will not take responsibility for it (the cop who takes your license away because of the perceived risk and the loss of a job that follows from it, but the cop, qua cop, receives a reward for performing their job). Suits them and their pitifully meagre ability; a fiction like any other law, so nothing real, so no cost. Pity it doesn't work.

adr's picture

Nice article. What we really see is that common law did not produce obscene operating income for governments, so we needed to fine people for being perpetrators of victimless crime. Since there was no victim, the state automatically wins and can collect with impunity.

If you're ten seconds late putting a quarter in a meter, you're fined $50 even though you had paid for the time. A fine 200x the cost of the payment for the space, even if you left the meter dry for a full hour. Parking enforcement was created to make sure people didn't just leave cars on the streets in front of businesses for days on end, preventing people from being able to engage in commerce. It morphed into a revenue generating scam to fill government coffers.

Worse yet is speeding on a highway. Something that can not be proven to harm anyone. 70 in a 60mph can result in fines over $200 and an increase in insurance rates going up hundreds of dollars more. You are breaking a law that can not even be shown to cause harm.

Clock Crasher's picture

+1

I'll add Marc Stevens and 1215.org

Insurrector's picture

The problem is that there is no consensus on "common sense and respect for the standards of a community."  Common sense implies there is common ability to perceive, understand, and judge things that are shared by ("common to") nearly all people and can reasonably be expected of nearly all people without need for debate.

Name one issue today that is not debated.

Jim Crow laws were "standards of a community" that deliberately disenfranchised blacks and enacted "poll taxes" preventing the poor from voting. 

Local governments, like Houston, have non-existent laws that allow dangerous polluters to do so without impunity or safeguards against floods.  Whole communities have become toxic sites because of the brew of chemicals from companies like Arkema.

We need the government to protect us from big business as much as we need them to protect us from enemies overseas.

Arrow4Truth's picture

You need big brother to protect you? Geezus. In my 57 years the U$ corporation hasn't protected me from shit. Instead they have murdered millions and destroyed sovereign nations and infrastructures, all under the nattional security lie. The CIA created and worked to put Saddam Hussein in power, yet murdered him after he became unwilling to continue being their asset. Don't get me wrong, he was as much a tyrant as any, but he was correct in dubbing the U$ corporation "the great satan." After destroying the infrastructure and pillaging, U$ Inc. allowed their sister American corporations to rebuild what they destroyed. Obvious quid pro quo. Fucking thieves. Rant done. Have a nice day.

Ol Man's picture

"We need the government to protect us from big business..."

All we have done is give "Big Business" the rule of law over us.  Whether they are directly in control or indirectly through their lawyers who get to share the booty, they use the government to accomplish everything they want, whether the people want it or not.

atomic balm's picture

Name one issue today that is not debated.

 

No one advocates putting water in the gas tank instead of gasoline.

King of Ruperts Land's picture

Consensus can be reached by a small local group of people if they are required to. Everything that occurs has a locality, so there could be a defined set of property owners and heads of households that could form a quorum and rule on any issue that arises at that locality. If the group is a nation or tribe, there will be consensus. Those "debated issues" are resolved within those groups. The debated issues are the wedge issues that the power elite use against the people preventing them from being "one people united under God"

There is no universal custom and law. But there might be some things that are fairly widely agreed upon. Custom and law of one group may seem alien and unjust by another nation. Wars between nations should never be based on these internal differences. This would result in unnecessary and therefore immoral war. This is the basic immorality of the "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine and why all of its proponents are common enemies of humanity.

Anonymous_Beneficiary's picture

We need the government to protect us from big business as much as we need them to protect us from enemies overseas.

Because the gubbermint has a great track record of protecting the people from big business interests or the 9/11 perpetrators...right?

Arrow4Truth's picture

Their actions caused the "enemies overseas." Now they use it as an excuse to keep everyone in fear... as slaves. Fuck 'em. 

sodbuster's picture

Good luck- our government is RUN by big business.............

King of Ruperts Land's picture

Get rid of "big business" there is no moral or economic imperative for it.

If we target the general purpose, like a "person" under the law, limited liability, legal fiction corporation then that covers most problems with "big business".

The state could still grant special charters (electric company, railroad, etc) but with limited functions and subject to the public good.

There are still the rich, the powerful, and the important. If they are actual mortal flesh and blood people with a soul, and not corporate legal fictions, it goes a long way to leveling the playing field.

The state itself should be extremely limited also. Its largest function should be conceptual. The state as a "concept" rather than a budgeted staffed entity. The virtual state?

bluskyes's picture

This takes me back to the dawn of my awakening.

harrybrown's picture

This is where its at & the zionist cabal hate this, its their cryptonite

Abuses by King John caused a revolt by nobles who compelled him
to execute this recognition of rights for both noblemen and ordinary Englishmen.
It established the principle that no one, including the king or a lawmaker, is above the law.
The Magna Carta
(The Great Charter)

Preamble: John, by the grace of God, king of England, lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and count of Anjou, to the archbishop, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justiciaries, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his bailiffs and liege subjects, greetings. Know that, having regard to God and for the salvation of our soul, and those of all our ancestors and heirs, and unto the honor of God and the advancement of his holy Church and for the rectifying of our realm, we have granted as underwritten by advice of our venerable fathers, Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England and cardinal of the holy Roman Church, Henry, archbishop of Dublin, William of London, Peter of Winchester, Jocelyn of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh of Lincoln, Walter of Worcester, William of Coventry, Benedict of Rochester, bishops; of Master Pandulf, subdeacon and member of the household of our lord the Pope, of brother Aymeric (master of the Knights of the Temple in England), and of the illustrious men William Marshal, earl of Pembroke, William, earl of Salisbury, William, earl of Warenne, William, earl of Arundel, Alan of Galloway (constable of Scotland), Waren Fitz Gerold, Peter Fitz Herbert, Hubert De Burgh (seneschal of Poitou), Hugh de Neville, Matthew Fitz Herbert, Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philip d'Aubigny, Robert of Roppesley, John Marshal, John Fitz Hugh, and others, our liegemen.

1. In the first place we have granted to God, and by this our present charter confirmed for us and our heirs forever that the English Church shall be free, and shall have her rights entire, and her liberties inviolate; and we will that it be thus observed; which is apparent from this that the freedom of elections, which is reckoned most important and very essential to the English Church, we, of our pure and unconstrained will, did grant, and did by our charter confirm and did obtain the ratification of the same from our lord, Pope Innocent III, before the quarrel arose between us and our barons: and this we will observe, and our will is that it be observed in good faith by our heirs forever. We have also granted to all freemen of our kingdom, for us and our heirs forever, all the underwritten liberties, to be had and held by them and their heirs, of us and our heirs forever.

2. If any of our earls or barons, or others holding of us in chief by military service shall have died, and at the time of his death his heir shall be full of age and owe "relief", he shall have his inheritance by the old relief, to wit, the heir or heirs of an earl, for the whole barony of an earl by £100; the heir or heirs of a baron, £100 for a whole barony; the heir or heirs of a knight, 100s, at most, and whoever owes less let him give less, according to the ancient custom of fees.

3. If, however, the heir of any one of the aforesaid has been under age and in wardship, let him have his inheritance without relief and without fine when he comes of age.

4. The guardian of the land of an heir who is thus under age, shall take from the land of the heir nothing but reasonable produce, reasonable customs, and reasonable services, and that without destruction or waste of men or goods; and if we have committed the wardship of the lands of any such minor to the sheriff, or to any other who is responsible to us for its issues, and he has made destruction or waster of what he holds in wardship, we will take of him amends, and the land shall be committed to two lawful and discreet men of that fee, who shall be responsible for the issues to us or to him to whom we shall assign them; and if we have given or sold the wardship of any such land to anyone and he has therein made destruction or waste, he shall lose that wardship, and it shall be transferred to two lawful and discreet men of that fief, who shall be responsible to us in like manner as aforesaid.

5. The guardian, moreover, so long as he has the wardship of the land, shall keep up the houses, parks, fishponds, stanks, mills, and other things pertaining to the land, out of the issues of the same land; and he shall restore to the heir, when he has come to full age, all his land, stocked with ploughs and wainage, according as the season of husbandry shall require, and the issues of the land can reasonable bear.

6. Heirs shall be married without disparagement, yet so that before the marriage takes place the nearest in blood to that heir shall have notice.

7. A widow, after the death of her husband, shall forthwith and without difficulty have her marriage portion and inheritance; nor shall she give anything for her dower, or for her marriage portion, or for the inheritance which her husband and she held on the day of the death of that husband; and she may remain in the house of her husband for forty days after his death, within which time her dower shall be assigned to her.

8. No widow shall be compelled to marry, so long as she prefers to live without a husband; provided always that she gives security not to marry without our consent, if she holds of us, or without the consent of the lord of whom she holds, if she holds of another.

9. Neither we nor our bailiffs will seize any land or rent for any debt, as long as the chattels of the debtor are sufficient to repay the debt; nor shall the sureties of the debtor be distrained so long as the principal debtor is able to satisfy the debt; and if the principal debtor shall fail to pay the debt, having nothing wherewith to pay it, then the sureties shall answer for the debt; and let them have the lands and rents of the debtor, if they desire them, until they are indemnified for the debt which they have paid for him, unless the principal debtor can show proof that he is discharged thereof as against the said sureties.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. No scutage not aid shall be imposed on our kingdom, unless by common counsel of our kingdom, except for ransoming our person, for making our eldest son a knight, and for once marrying our eldest daughter; and for these there shall not be levied more than a reasonable aid. In like manner it shall be done concerning aids from the city of London.

13. And the city of London shall have all it ancient liberties and free customs, as well by land as by water; furthermore, we decree and grant that all other cities, boroughs, towns, and ports shall have all their liberties and free customs.

14. And for obtaining the common counsel of the kingdom anent the assessing of an aid (except in the three cases aforesaid) or of a scutage, we will cause to be summoned the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, and greater barons, severally by our letters; and we will moveover cause to be summoned generally, through our sheriffs and bailiffs, and others who hold of us in chief, for a fixed date, namely, after the expiry of at least forty days, and at a fixed place; and in all letters of such summons we will specify the reason of the summons. And when the summons has thus been made, the business shall proceed on the day appointed, according to the counsel of such as are present, although not all who were summoned have come.

15. We will not for the future grant to anyone license to take an aid from his own free tenants, except to ransom his person, to make his eldest son a knight, and once to marry his eldest daughter; and on each of these occasions there shall be levied only a reasonable aid.

16. No one shall be distrained for performance of greater service for a knight's fee, or for any other free tenement, than is due therefrom.

17. Common pleas shall not follow our court, but shall be held in some fixed place.

18. Inquests of novel disseisin, of mort d'ancestor, and of darrein presentment shall not be held elsewhere than in their own county courts, and that in manner following; We, or, if we should be out of the realm, our chief justiciar, will send two justiciaries through every county four times a year, who shall alone with four knights of the county chosen by the county, hold the said assizes in the county court, on the day and in the place of meeting of that court.

19. And if any of the said assizes cannot be taken on the day of the county court, let there remain of the knights and freeholders, who were present at the county court on that day, as many as may be required for the efficient making of judgments, according as the business be more or less.

20. A freeman shall not be amerced for a slight offense, except in accordance with the degree of the offense; and for a grave offense he shall be amerced in accordance with the gravity of the offense, yet saving always his "contentment"; and a merchant in the same way, saving his "merchandise"; and a villein shall be amerced in the same way, saving his "wainage" if they have fallen into our mercy: and none of the aforesaid amercements shall be imposed except by the oath of honest men of the neighborhood.

21. Earls and barons shall not be amerced except through their peers, and only in accordance with the degree of the offense.

22. A clerk shall not be amerced in respect of his lay holding except after the manner of the others aforesaid; further, he shall not be amerced in accordance with the extent of his ecclesiastical benefice.

23. No village or individual shall be compelled to make bridges at river banks, except those who from of old were legally bound to do so.

24. No sheriff, constable, coroners, or others of our bailiffs, shall hold pleas of our Crown.

25. All counties, hundred, wapentakes, and trithings (except our demesne manors) shall remain at the old rents, and without any additional payment.

26. If anyone holding of us a lay fief shall die, and our sheriff or bailiff shall exhibit our letters patent of summons for a debt which the deceased owed us, it shall be lawful for our sheriff or bailiff to attach and enroll the chattels of the deceased, found upon the lay fief, to the value of that debt, at the sight of law worthy men, provided always that nothing whatever be thence removed until the debt which is evident shall be fully paid to us; and the residue shall be left to the executors to fulfill the will of the deceased; and if there be nothing due from him to us, all the chattels shall go to the deceased, saving to his wife and children their reasonable shares.

27. If any freeman shall die intestate, his chattels shall be distributed by the hands of his nearest kinsfolk and friends, under supervision of the Church, saving to every one the debts which the deceased owed to him.

28. No constable or other bailiff of ours shall take corn or other provisions from anyone without immediately tendering money therefor, unless he can have postponement thereof by permission of the seller.

29. No constable shall compel any knight to give money in lieu of castle-guard, when he is willing to perform it in his own person, or (if he himself cannot do it from any reasonable cause) then by another responsible man. Further, if we have led or sent him upon military service, he shall be relieved from guard in proportion to the time during which he has been on service because of us.

30. No sheriff or bailiff of ours, or other person, shall take the horses or carts of any freeman for transport duty, against the will of the said freeman.

31. Neither we nor our bailiffs shall take, for our castles or for any other work of ours, wood which is not ours, against the will of the owner of that wood.

32. We will not retain beyond one year and one day, the lands those who have been convicted of felony, and the lands shall thereafter be handed over to the lords of the fiefs.

33. All kydells for the future shall be removed altogether from Thames and Medway, and throughout all England, except upon the seashore.

34. The writ which is called praecipe shall not for the future be issued to anyone, regarding any tenement whereby a freeman may lose his court.

35. Let there be one measure of wine throughout our whole realm; and one measure of ale; and one measure of corn, to wit, "the London quarter"; and one width of cloth (whether dyed, or russet, or "halberget"), to wit, two ells within the selvedges; of weights also let it be as of measures.

36. Nothing in future shall be given or taken for a writ of inquisition of life or limbs, but freely it shall be granted, and never denied.

37. If anyone holds of us by fee-farm, either by socage or by burage, or of any other land by knight's service, we will not (by reason of that fee-farm, socage, or burgage), have the wardship of the heir, or of such land of his as if of the fief of that other; nor shall we have wardship of that fee-farm, socage, or burgage, unless such fee-farm owes knight's service. We will not by reason of any small serjeancy which anyone may hold of us by the service of rendering to us knives, arrows, or the like, have wardship of his heir or of the land which he holds of another lord by knight's service.

38. No bailiff for the future shall, upon his own unsupported complaint, put anyone to his "law", without credible witnesses brought for this purposes.

39. No freemen shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.

40. To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.

41. All merchants shall have safe and secure exit from England, and entry to England, with the right to tarry there and to move about as well by land as by water, for buying and selling by the ancient and right customs, quit from all evil tolls, except (in time of war) such merchants as are of the land at war with us. And if such are found in our land at the beginning of the war, they shall be detained, without injury to their bodies or goods, until information be received by us, or by our chief justiciar, how the merchants of our land found in the land at war with us are treated; and if our men are safe there, the others shall be safe in our land.

42. It shall be lawful in future for anyone (excepting always those imprisoned or outlawed in accordance with the law of the kingdom, and natives of any country at war with us, and merchants, who shall be treated as if above provided) to leave our kingdom and to return, safe and secure by land and water, except for a short period in time of war, on grounds of public policy- reserving always the allegiance due to us.

43. If anyone holding of some escheat (such as the honor of Wallingford, Nottingham, Boulogne, Lancaster, or of other escheats which are in our hands and are baronies) shall die, his heir shall give no other relief, and perform no other service to us than he would have done to the baron if that barony had been in the baron's hand; and we shall hold it in the same manner in which the baron held it.

44. Men who dwell without the forest need not henceforth come before our justiciaries of the forest upon a general summons, unless they are in plea, or sureties of one or more, who are attached for the forest.

45. We will appoint as justices, constables, sheriffs, or bailiffs only such as know the law of the realm and mean to observe it well.

46. All barons who have founded abbeys, concerning which they hold charters from the kings of England, or of which they have long continued possession, shall have the wardship of them, when vacant, as they ought to have.

47. All forests that have been made such in our time shall forthwith be disafforsted; and a similar course shall be followed with regard to river banks that have been placed "in defense" by us in our time.

48. All evil customs connected with forests and warrens, foresters and warreners, sheriffs and their officers, river banks and their wardens, shall immediately by inquired into in each county by twelve sworn knights of the same county chosen by the honest men of the same county, and shall, within forty days of the said inquest, be utterly abolished, so as never to be restored, provided always that we previously have intimation thereof, or our justiciar, if we should not be in England.

49. We will immediately restore all hostages and charters delivered to us by Englishmen, as sureties of the peace of faithful service.

50. We will entirely remove from their bailiwicks, the relations of Gerard of Athee (so that in future they shall have no bailiwick in England); namely, Engelard of Cigogne, Peter, Guy, and Andrew of Chanceaux, Guy of Cigogne, Geoffrey of Martigny with his brothers, Philip Mark with his brothers and his nephew Geoffrey, and the whole brood of the same.

51. As soon as peace is restored, we will banish from the kingdom all foreign born knights, crossbowmen, serjeants, and mercenary soldiers who have come with horses and arms to the kingdom's hurt.

52. If anyone has been dispossessed or removed by us, without the legal judgment of his peers, from his lands, castles, franchises, or from his right, we will immediately restore them to him; and if a dispute arise over this, then let it be decided by the five and twenty barons of whom mention is made below in the clause for securing the peace. Moreover, for all those possessions, from which anyone has, without the lawful judgment of his peers, been disseised or removed, by our father, King Henry, or by our brother, King Richard, and which we retain in our hand (or which as possessed by others, to whom we are bound to warrant them) we shall have respite until the usual term of crusaders; excepting those things about which a plea has been raised, or an inquest made by our order, before our taking of the cross; but as soon as we return from the expedition, we will immediately grant full justice therein.

53. We shall have, moreover, the same respite and in the same manner in rendering justice concerning the disafforestation or retention of those forests which Henry our father and Richard our broter afforested, and concerning the wardship of lands which are of the fief of another (namely, such wardships as we have hitherto had by reason of a fief which anyone held of us by knight's service), and concerning abbeys founded on other fiefs than our own, in which the lord of the fee claims to have right; and when we have returned, or if we desist from our expedition, we will immediately grant full justice to all who complain of such things.

54. No one shall be arrested or imprisoned upon the appeal of a woman, for the death of any other than her husband.

55. All fines made with us unjustly and against the law of the land, and all amercements, imposed unjustly and against the law of the land, shall be entirely remitted, or else it shall be done concerning them according to the decision of the five and twenty barons whom mention is made below in the clause for securing the pease, or according to the judgment of the majority of the same, along with the aforesaid Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, if he can be present, and such others as he may wish to bring with him for this purpose, and if he cannot be present the business shall nevertheless proceed without him, provided always that if any one or more of the aforesaid five and twenty barons are in a similar suit, they shall be removed as far as concerns this particular judgment, others being substituted in their places after having been selected by the rest of the same five and twenty for this purpose only, and after having been sworn.

56. If we have disseised or removed Welshmen from lands or liberties, or other things, without the legal judgment of their peers in England or in Wales, they shall be immediately restored to them; and if a dispute arise over this, then let it be decided in the marches by the judgment of their peers; for the tenements in England according to the law of England, for tenements in Wales according to the law of Wales, and for tenements in the marches according to the law of the marches. Welshmen shall do the same to us and ours.

57. Further, for all those possessions from which any Welshman has, without the lawful judgment of his peers, been disseised or removed by King Henry our father, or King Richard our brother, and which we retain in our hand (or which are possessed by others, and which we ought to warrant), we will have respite until the usual term of crusaders; excepting those things about which a plea has been raised or an inquest made by our order before we took the cross; but as soon as we return (or if perchance we desist from our expedition), we will immediately grant full justice in accordance with the laws of the Welsh and in relation to the foresaid regions.

58. We will immediately give up the son of Llywelyn and all the hostages of Wales, and the charters delivered to us as security for the peace.

59. We will do towards Alexander, king of Scots, concerning the return of his sisters and his hostages, and concerning his franchises, and his right, in the same manner as we shall do towards our other barons of England, unless it ought to be otherwise according to the charters which we hold from William his father, formerly king of Scots; and this shall be according to the judgment of his peers in our court.

60. Moreover, all these aforesaid customs and liberties, the observances of which we have granted in our kingdom as far as pertains to us towards our men, shall be observed b all of our kingdom, as well clergy as laymen, as far as pertains to them towards their men.

61. Since, moveover, for God and the amendment of our kingdom and for the better allaying of the quarrel that has arisen between us and our barons, we have granted all these concessions, desirous that they should enjoy them in complete and firm endurance forever, we give and grant to them the underwritten security, namely, that the barons choose five and twenty barons of the kingdom, whomsoever they will, who shall be bound with all their might, to observe and hold, and cause to be observed, the peace and liberties we have granted and confirmed to them by this our present Charter, so that if we, or our justiciar, or our bailiffs or any one of our officers, shall in anything be at fault towards anyone, or shall have broken any one of the articles of this peace or of this security, and the offense be notified to four barons of the foresaid five and twenty, the said four barons shall repair to us (or our justiciar, if we are out of the realm) and, laying the transgression before us, petition to have that transgression redressed without delay. And if we shall not have corrected the transgression (or, in the event of our being out of the realm, if our justiciar shall not have corrected it) within forty days, reckoning from the time it has been intimated to us (or to our justiciar, if we should be out of the realm), the four barons aforesaid shall refer that matter to the rest of the five and twenty barons, and those five and twenty barons shall, together with the community of the whole realm, distrain and distress us in all possible ways, namely, by seizing our castles, lands, possessions, and in any other way they can, until redress has been obtained as they deem fit, saving harmless our own person, and the persons of our queen and children; and when redress has been obtained, they shall resume their old relations towards us. And let whoever in the country desires it, swear to obey the orders of the said five and twenty barons for the execution of all the aforesaid matters, and along with them, to molest us to the utmost of his power; and we publicly and freely grant leave to everyone who wishes to swear, and we shall never forbid anyone to swear. All those, moveover, in the land who of themselves and of their own accord are unwilling to swear to the twenty five to help them in constraining and molesting us, we shall by our command compel the same to swear to the effect foresaid. And if any one of the five and twenty barons shall have died or departed from the land, or be incapacitated in any other manner which would prevent the foresaid provisions being carried out, those of the said twenty five barons who are left shall choose another in his place according to their own judgment, and he shall be sworn in the same way as the others. Further, in all matters, the execution of which is entrusted, to these twenty five barons, if perchance these twenty five are present and disagree about anything, or if some of them, after being summoned, are unwilling or unable to be present, that which the majority of those present ordain or command shall be held as fixed and established, exactly as if the whole twenty five had concurred in this; and the said twenty five shall swear that they will faithfully observe all that is aforesaid, and cause it to be observed with all their might. And we shall procure nothing from anyone, directly or indirectly, whereby any part of these concessions and liberties might be revoked or diminished; and if any such things has been procured, let it be void and null, and we shall never use it personally or by another.

62. And all the will, hatreds, and bitterness that have arisen between us and our men, clergy and lay, from the date of the quarrel, we have completely remitted and pardoned to everyone. Moreover, all trespasses occasioned by the said quarrel, from Easter in the sixteenth year of our reign till the restoration of peace, we have fully remitted to all, both clergy and laymen, and completely forgiven, as far as pertains to us. And on this head, we have caused to be made for them letters testimonial patent of the lord Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, of the lord Henry, archbishop of Dublin, of the bishops aforesaid, and of Master Pandulf as touching this security and the concessions aforesaid.

63. Wherefore we will and firmly order that the English Church be free, and that the men in our kingdom have and hold all the aforesaid liberties, rights, and concessions, well and peaceably, freely and quietly, fully and wholly, for themselves and their heirs, of us and our heirs, in all respects and in all places forever, as is aforesaid. An oath, moreover, has been taken, as well on our part as on the part of the barons, that all these conditions aforesaid shall be kept in good faith and without evil intent.

Given under our hand - the above named and many others being witnesses - in the meadow which is called Runnymede, between Windsor and Staines, on the fifteenth day of June, in the seventeenth year of our reign.

gmrpeabody's picture

Wow.., you must be a really fast typer...

iamrefreshed's picture

For a guy around for 6 years you should know a post this length is very uncool. Don't be a dick.

Beowulf55's picture

It might be "uncool" to you but I found it very educational........

Thanks Harrybrown......

Liked the parts about the specificl mention about Jews......seems they were a problem even back then...

King of Ruperts Land's picture

Where in there does it give rights to the Mohammedanians?

logicalman's picture

Common law gives the same rights to everyone.

It also carries the same responsibilities and consequences.

It is in no way selective by race or creed, unlike yourself.

I guess you completely miss the point.

General Fuster Cluck's picture

Oh I see. It speaks of Crusaders, and foreigners and enemies. Got it.