Eight hundred years ago, a radical idea came to life: the idea that individuals possess rights that the authorities must respect. Those rights were for the first time specified in writing and ratified by law.
The first of these laws was so important that it was known simply as “the Great Charter.” Two years later, this “Magna Carta” was followed by a second charter, in its way even more astounding. For while the Magna Carta enumerated the rights of the most powerful subjects of the King of England, the Charter of the Forest vindicated the rights of ordinary people. The Magna Carta detailed the steps the king must follow in the case of a baron accused of a crime. The Charter of the Forest affirmed the freedom of farmers, millers, and herders to walk, farm, and forage in the country that was their home.
These rights may seem humble. But from these two documents originated the long process of evolution and revolution that in time would light the whole world.
When you speak your mind without fear, worship God as you think right, enjoy your property in security, or enter a courtroom confident that you cannot be punished until your guilt is proved – then you are standing at the end of a story that begins with these words written in Latin on parchment so long ago.