Our Views: Magna Carta’s proud legacy

It’s been a heated political season across America, full of debates about the limits on power and promises of liberty included in the U.S. Constitution.

But the Constitution wasn’t conceived in a vacuum. It sought to extend and refine certain individual rights first asserted in a much earlier document, the Magna Carta, written in England some eight centuries ago.

The Magna Carta marks its 800th birthday next year, and we’re heartened by the news that distinguished Louisiana scholar Ellis Sandoz is helping to make the Magna Carta’s landmark year something special.

More Americans need to know about the Magna Carta, which was written by 13th-century barons and sealed into law in June 1215 at Runnymede in Windsor, England. The document was a series of written promises created to protect the rights and property of the English people. Fed up by the dictatorial excesses of King John, the barons coerced the monarch into granting basic rights and liberties to his subjects. The Magna Carta helped advance the idea that no leader could govern legitimately without the consent of the governed. The Magna Carta’s principles deeply informed the Founding Fathers as they set about creating the instruments of American government.

Sandoz, LSU political science professor and director of the Eric Voegelin Institute for American Renaissance Studies, has been named to the Library of Congress Advisory Board of Scholars for an exhibition on the Magna Carta. Sandoz is one of just four scholars appointed to the board, which will assist with the exhibition content.

Sandoz has dedicated a portion of his scholarly career to researching liberty and its origins in American law, which trace back to the Magna Carta.

We commend Sandoz for helping to raise awareness of the Magna Carta, a document that should remind all Americans that human liberty is an old idea, and a cherished one.