Monday, June 15, 2015

Thank The Magna Carta

King John signs the Magna Carta in this mistaken portraya. In fact, he sealed the document.
Article VII - No man can be accused, arrested nor detained but in the cases determined by the law, and according to the forms which it has prescribed. 
Article IX - Any man being presumed innocent until he is declared culpable...
Article XVII - Property being an inviolable and sacred right, no one can be deprived of private usage...
Article XIV - Each citizen has the right to ascertain, by himself or through his representatives, the need for a public tax, to consent to it freely,
 - Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, Paris, 1789.

Those basic citizens' rights and others are inscribed on the wall of the Universidad de America's Casa
The Rights of Man and the Citizen, just off of Calle 10.
de los Derechos del Hombre, sadly hidden away on Calle 10, just above the Plaza Bolivar.

That resounding list of rights, issued by the French Revolutionaries in 1789, was secretly brought to Colombia in 1794, translated and secretly distributed by Antonio Nariño. The Spanish royal government, which held that the king ruled with divine right and could do whatever he pleased, confiscated and destroyed the documents and sentenced Nariño to 10 years imprisonment. Nariño escaped royal arrest twice and returned to Bogotá to help lead the revolution in La Gran Colombia, becoming one of Colombia's most important but less remembered heroes.

As imperfectly as those principles have been honored, they still provide a basis for rule of law in Colombia today.

The Right of Man are hidden back there.
And those principles emanate from an even older document: The Magna Carta, sealed by the lousy English King John and the barons exactly 800 years ago on June 15, 1215 in the field of Runnymede, outside of London.

The Magna Carta, or Great Charter, was nearly stillborn: King John soon repudiated it, and the Pope ordered him not to obey it. Rule by divine right and rejection of citizens' rights would continue. Yet, successive kings reissued the Great Charter, it helped inspire the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the United States Constitution and the United Nations' Charter of Human Rights, not to mention the laws of innumerable other nations.

Antonio Nariño brought
over the rights.
You might not have a chance to visit Runnymede this week, but it's worth passing by the hidden
Plazoleta on Calle 10 and taking a look at the principles which enable you to demand a trial before punishment, to defend your property from arbitrary confiscation and to have a say in how you are taxed - at least in theory.

The Magna Carta, not a very impressive-looking document.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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