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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

It was agreed to give Magna Charta a form


And

even without this King John had already armed, to annul by force of arms all that he had promised. A war broke out which took a turn especially dangerous to the kingdom, because the barons called the heir of France to the English throne and did him homage. So little were the feelings of nationality yet developed, that the barons fought out the war against their King, supported by the presence and military Power of a foreign prince. For the interests of the English crown it was perhaps an advantage that King John died in the midst of the troubles, and his rights passed to his son Henry, a child to whom his father's iniquity could not be imputed.[35] In his name a royalist party was formed by the joint action of Pembroke, the Marshal of the kingdom and the Papal Legate, which at last won such advantages in the field, that the French prince was induced to surrender his claim, which he himself hardly held to be a good one--the English were designated as traitors by his retinue,--and give back to the barons the homage they had pledged him. But he did so only on the condition that not merely their possessions, but also the lawful customs and liberties of the realm should be secured to them.[36] At a meeting between Henry III and the French prince at Merton in Surrey, it was agreed to give Magna Charta a form, in which it was deemed compatible with the monarchy. In this shape the article on personal freedom occurs; on the other hand everything is left out that could imply a power of
control to be exercised against the King; the need of a grant before levying scutage is also no longer mentioned. The barons abandoned for the time their chief claims.

It is, properly speaking, this charter which was renewed in the ninth year of Henry III as Magna Charta, and was afterwards repeatedly confirmed. As we see, it did not include the right of approving taxes by a vote.

Whether men's union in a State in general depends on an original contract, is a question for political theorists, and to them we leave its solution. On the other hand, however, it might well be maintained that the English constitution, as it gradually shaped itself, assumed the character of a contract. So much is already involved in the first promises which William the Conqueror made at his entry into London and in his agreement with the partisans of Harold. The same is true of the assurances given by his sons, especially the second one: they were the price of a very definite equivalent. More than any that had gone before however does Magna Charta bear this character. The barons put forward their demands: King John negociates about them, and at last sees himself forced to accept them. It is true that he soon takes arms to free himself from the obligation he has undertaken. It comes to a struggle, in which, however, neither side decidedly gains the upper hand, and they agree to a compromise. It is true the barons did not expressly stipulate for the new charter when they submitted to John's son (for with John himself they could certainly have never been reconciled), but yet it is undeniable that without it their submission would never have taken place, nor would peace have been concluded.


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