by Roger Pilon, Cato Institute
n June 15 we Americans, along with our English cousins, will celebrate the day 800 years ago when English barons, on the fields of Runnymede, first brought the arbitrary reign of a king under the rule of law through a written document, Magna Carta.
Yet in many ways today, as we prepare to celebrate next month our own overthrow of an English king, we find ourselves back at Runnymede, petitioning our government for relief from its arbitrary rule. The story of this triumph and turn in the history of liberty is worth retelling.
It begins before Magna Carta, with the creation of the common law in the third quarter of the 12th century in the reign of Henry II. Crafted by judges deciding disputes brought by private individuals, English common law arose after Henry established circuit courts and a central appeals court that over time made the law “common” to the realm. It was a law of rights, derived from reason...Read the entire story.