On Runnymede and Keeping Faith in Right to Prevail

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As we mark the 800th Anniversary since that brave group of men stood up to the King and insisted that law, not arbitrary whim, governs all (including the monarch himself), we are reminded of what Calvin Coolidge once said about the triumph of constitutional liberty on those quiet fields of Runnymede in 1215. It justified his faith that The People who prevailed there, who won again at Marston Moor in 1644 (defeating those who sought to impose a Divine Right of absolute monarchy over the individual), and triumphed yet further with the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the abolition of slavery after the War between the States, were worthy of self-government, and that what is right ultimately succeeds. It serves a warning to despots, tyrants, and arbitrary authority wherever it manifests through the ages. Coolidge retained that faith from history and a wise grasp of human nature. Arbitrary authority may be on the march again eight centuries later but the same resolute will to confront it and the same solemn warnings to monarchs echo from that June 15th at the marshes of Runnymede: Magna Carta est lex, caveat deinde rex (“Magna Carta is the Law: Let the King henceforth look out”).

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