Monday, June 15, 2009

This Day In History - June 15: Magna Carta Sealed, The Battle of Kosovo Fought & Lightning Strikes Ben

Art: Romantic Landscape With Ruined Tower, Thomas Cole, 1836

1215 – King John of England met with his barons at Runnymede and there, affixed his seal to the Magna Carta. John was a highly unpopular king who heavily taxed his subjects, engaged in disastrous wars and was excommunicated by the Pope. When his barons had finally had enough and were near open revolt, they instead agreed with John to the terms set forth in the Magna Carta. A millennium later, Churchill would dryly observe, "When the long tally is added, it will be seen that the British nation and the English-speaking world owe far more to the vices of John than to the labours of virtuous sovereigns."

The Magna Carta is one of the most famous and important documents in our history. The U.S. Constitution, with but a few notable differences, is largely an amalgam of the rights of Englishmen as existed in common law and by solemn compact with the crown in 1776. One of the first of those compacts was the Magna Carta and indeed, many of the rights set out therein are found directly in our Constitution and Bill of Rights today. The fine blog Brits At Their Best lists them, and I have, in brackets, annotated where they exist in our founding documents:


- The right to trial by jury. [6th Amendment]

- The right to habeas corpus. —We cannot be arrested and kept in prison without trial. [Const. Art. I, Sec. 9]

- The right to own property, which cannot be taken from us without due payment or process of law. [5th Amendment]

- The right not to be fined so heavily as to have our livelihood destroyed. [8th Amendment]

- The right to reasonable taxation levied only with the general consent of the kingdom. [Const. Art. I, Sec. 7-8] . . .

- The right to travel freely in and out of the country except during war. (recognized at common law)

- These rights to be observed not only by the king but by all men.

The version agreed to by John included the right to redress through an advisory council to the king and planted the seed of representative government. [In Britain, it would grow into Parliament; in the U.S., to our bi-cameral legislature]

You can find the Magna Carta here. Brits At Their Best has much more on the events leading up to the signing of this document and its historic significance.

1389 – An Ottoman army won a close but critical victory over a combined force of Serbs and Bosnians at the Battle of Kosovo. Though a loss, the battle did succeed in stopping the Ottoman advance into Europe for a period. As a result of the battle, Serbia was reduced to a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire and Christianity repressed. Serbia remained under Ottoman rule until revolution in 1817.

1667 – The first blood transfusion to a human is administered by Dr. Jean-Baptiste Denys, personal physician to the French King. Denys gave a transfusion of lambs blood to a sick child who later died of his illness.

1752 – Ben Franklin famously flew his kite in a thuderstorm to prove that lightning is electricity.

1775 – George Washington was appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.

1804 – New Hampshire approved the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratifying the document.

1836 – Arkansas was admitted as the 25th U.S. state.

1844 – Charles Goodyear received a patent for vulcanization, a process to strengthen rubber.

1864 – Arlington National Cemetery was established when 200 acres around Arlington Mansion, formerly owned by Confederate General Robert E. Lee, were officially set aside as a military cemetery.

1888 – Crown Prince Wilhelm became Kaiser Wilhelm II - and is the last emperor of the German Empire. He led Germany into the disaster of World War I. He abdicated the crown in 1918 following a mutiny against his rule.

1911 – IBM is incorporated.

1916 – U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signs a bill incorporating the Boy Scouts of America, making them the only American youth organization with a federal charter.

1934 – The U.S. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is founded.

1985 – Rembrandt's painting Danaë is attacked by a man (later judged insane) who throws sulfuric acid on the canvas and cuts it twice with a knife.

1992 – The United States Supreme Court rules in United States v. Álvarez-Machaín that it is permissible for the USA to forcibly extradite suspects in foreign countries and bring them to the USA for trial, without approval from those other countries.

1994Israel and Vatican City establish full diplomatic relations.

1996 – In Manchester, UK, an IRA bomb injures over 200 people and devastates a large part of the city centre.


1330 – Edward the Black Prince, Prince of Wales (d. 1376)

1519 – Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset, illegitimate son of King Henry VIII of England (d. 1536)


923 – Robert I of France (b. 866)

2002 – Choi Hong Hi, founder of Taekwon-Do (b. 1918). The precursors to Tae Kwon Do stretch far back into Korea's history. Choi consolidated the various strands of this martial art and turned it into the TKD that we know today. It is the national sport of South Korea.

Holidays and observances

Today was ninth and final day of the ancient Roman celebration of Vestalia in honor of Vesta.

Several Eastern Orthodox Churches celebrate a feast for St. Augustine of Hippo. Augustine, a 5th Century ascetic, did more to stigmatize sex within Christianity than any other Christian thinker.

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