A. Edward Major Addresses the Significance of the Magna Carta in Constitution Day Lecture


The King’s College, NEW YORK – In honor of Constitution Day, this past Friday, Sept. 16, approximately 100 students and staff gathered in the City Room at noon to hear A. Edward Major give a presentation on the Magna Carta, its history in the church and its significance in regards to the United States Constitution. Major, a partner at Kegan Lubic Lepper Finkelstein & Gold, LLP, believes the Magna Carta has never been more cited than it is in the present. It is regarded as the “prima facie authority,” or “the highest authority,” in the modern world of law. Major further treated the audience with  an insightful history of the revered document.

The Magna Carta Libertatum, most commonly known as the Magna Carta, is an English document originally drafted in the early 13th century. Fed up with the king’s constant impositions of taxes, unfair imprisonments, meddling in Church affairs, and denial of justice in the courts, a group of disgruntled English barons, or freemen, “holed King John in the Temple Church, built and guarded by the Knights Templar,” until he agreed to sign the document.  Composed by Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the document was finally signed by King John on June 15, 1215.

“The freemen chose to seal the document in the middle of a swamp so that a possible raid would not occur,” Major said.

Major also mentioned that the original document “had no teeth to enforce it,” so no man sought to abide by it. It was not until John’s heir stepped up to the throne that the Magna Carta gained “teeth” and was again signed and sealed.

According to Major, the Magna Carta was the way of life for many Englishmen and foreigners at the time. Thomas Moore fought the laws of King Henry VIII on the terms of Magna Carta. Sir Edward Coke once said, “Magna Carta is such a fellow that he would have no sovereign.” The Magna Carta held its position as a significant “piece of paper” when the United States of America was in its infancy. The Founding Fathers, as well revolutionaries such as Thomas Paine and Paul Revere,  cited the Magna Carta, and wove it into the very core of the Constitution.

The Magana Carta remains relevant even presently because it outlines the “natural rights granted by God that cannot be taken away by the tyranny of any authority,” Major said.

The Magna Carta was the “turning point in common law countries,” and it is the driving force of the common law system in America today.

“We are so much more fortunate than other countries because of common law,” Major said.

Major concluded his lecture by answering a couple of questions from the designated panelist, Dr. Innes. When Dr. Innes asked why there is such a large surge of citation of the Magna Carta, Major simply stated, “to cite the Magna Carta is to cite our history. In court, we like to say we’re citing something that’s in our bones. The document has attractive patina and authority, as well as age, maturity, and thought.”

When Dr. Innes questioned why America is so slow to publicly recognize an English document as their foundation, Major said, "America is straining to be politically correct. We want to make sure we don’t show favoritism."