must correct Erin Sullivan’s corrections of my letter involving
the historical reality of King John (hiss! hiss!) and the
Magna Carta [Letters, March 7]. Echoing Ron Loeber’s fantasy,
Ms. Sullivan insists on the historical reality of, at least
the statement that the rebel barons “threatened to skewer
King John.” I have read (in translation) all the primary sources
about King John—and they are all hostile to him—but none of
them say this. There was never any face-to-face confrontation
between John and the barons, thus no opportunity for skewering.
The protracted negotiations which produced the Magna Carta
were mediated by Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury,
who engaged in short-range shuttle diplomacy. Incidentally,
Pope Innocent III (John had made England a papal fief) soon
invalidated the Great Charter precisely because it was extracted
Ms. Sullivan says that this fairy tale about skewering is
a common one, but that doesn’t make it true. She claims that
Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist No. 84 supports
the skewering story. Even if he did, that only shows that,
more than 500 years later, somebody believed the story, and
I have already mentioned the power of myth in the last paragraph
of my letter. But No. 84, which I have now read for maybe
the 10th time, does not even do that. All Hamilton says is
that “Magna Charta [was] obtained by the barons, sword in
hand, from King John.” Nothing about skewering. Undoubtedly
Hamilton didn’t mean what he wrote literally, but whether
he did or he didn’t proves nothing about what really happened
The Magna Carta is important not for what it originally provided
for, but for the use made of it much later by English opponents
of Stuart absolutism in the 17th century and by American opponents
of British absolutism in the 18th century. Since then, though,
historians have set forth the real history of the charter,
and there is no excuse for reiterating the old mythology for
causes which don’t require lies for their merit.
Erin Sullivan replies:
Perhaps Mr. Black did not read the first sentence in my reply
to his letter to the editor, in which I acknowledged that
the myth about King John was not historical fact but
a story that has been told numerous times—even by such respected
figures as Alexander Hamilton. I was not trying to pass off
the old tale as truth (or, as Black would have it, “reiterating
the old mythology for causes which don’t require lies for
their merit”). Rather, I was supplying some context for readers
as to why Ron Loeber would use that particular account of
the signing of the Magna Carta in “Who’s to Judge? [Feb. 28],”
against Black’s characterization of Loeber as a “delusive”
with an eccentric view of legal history.
To the Editor:
a U.S. citizen who prefers to hold my life, liberty and property
under the protection of law, I take offense at Mr. Bob Black’s
mischaracterization of Magna Carta as being the basis of “only”
a “mythical Constitution” [Letters, March 7]. According to
his writings posted on the Internet, Mr. Bob Black of Albany
is apparently an avowed “anarchist” and an atheist who naturally
despises all the attempts of God and man to establish and
maintain a Government of Laws on Earth. (See http://www.spunk.org/library/writers/black/sp001646.html
or http://www. spunk.org/texts/writers/black/sp001648.html.)
The “Constitutionalists” who, in 1215 AD, 1789 AD and 1868
AD, codified the principles of Deuteronomy 17:14-20
(Instructions Concerning a King) within Magna Carta, and in
the U.S. Constitution, were determined to establish or restore
law (e.g., the Consent of the Governed) as a limitation upon
executive and judicial power.
government is a government by law. The office of the state
is to establish and maintain laws,” wrote Henry Campbell Black,
American Constitutional Law §70 (4th ed., West Pub.
Charta . . . is the origin of the provision, embodied in the
Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States,
that no man shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property
without due process of law” (106 U.S. 196, 228; 211 U.S. 78,
102). “The Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, later
incorporated into the Fourteenth Amendment, was intended to
give Americans at least the protection against governmental
power that they had enjoyed as Englishmen against the power
of the Crown” (430 U.S. 651, 672-3).
construed the Fourteenth Amendment may be said to rise to
the dignity of a new Magna Charta. . . . ‘Due process of law’
is the application of the Law as it exists, in the fair and
regular course of administrative procedure. ‘The equal protection
of the laws’ places all upon a footing of legal equality and
gives the same protection to all for the preservation of life,
liberty, and property, and the pursuit of happiness” (83 U.S.
36, 125-27; 92 U.S. 90, 93; 211 U.S. 78, 102; 18 Fed. 385,
process of law requires, first, the legislative act authorizing
the [depriv]ation, pointing out how it may be made . . . and,
second that the parties or officers proceeding to make the
[depriv]ation shall keep within the authority conferred” (166
U.S. 226, 241).
principles grow out of the proposition universally accepted
by American courts on the authority of [England’s Lord] Coke,
that the words ‘due process of law’ are equivalent in meaning
to the words ‘law of the land,’ contained in that chapter
of Magna Charta, which provides that ‘no freeman shall be
taken, or imprisoned, or disseised [of his property], or outlawed,
or exiled, or anywise destroyed . . . but by . . . the law
of the land’ ” (Twinning v. New Jersey, 211 U.S. 78,
Lord Coke instructed that “[e]very oppression against Law,
by colour of any usurped authority is a kinde of destruction
[prohibited by Magna Carta], for quando prohibetur,
prohibetur et omne per quod devenitur ad illud” (2
Coke, Institutes 53). The American colonists established this
principle in their earliest constitutions, such as the Massachusetts
Bay Colony’s 1641 Body of Liberties, which translated Magna
Carta as follows:
man’s life shall be taken away . . . no man’s goods or estaite
shall be taken away from him nor in any way indamaged under
Color of Law or Countenance of Authoritie, unlesse it be by
vertue of equitie or some express law of the Country warranting
the same, established by the [People’s Legislature] and sufficiently
published” (as quoted in Mott, Due Process of Law at
§ 4, pp. 9-10, n.31).
Thus, according the to the U.S. Supreme Court, the framers
of the U.S. Constitution were among those “delusives” whom
Mr. Black derides in his diatribe, for demanding that judges
and executive officials keep within the limits of their lawful
a recent issue, RA DePrima criticized my involvement as a
merchant/property owner on Lark Street [Letters, March 21].
Apparently, he is unaware that the benches in front of my
store were the last to be removed on the street.
We merchants supported the idea of benches for the handicapped
and elderly; certainly we all understand the pedestrian-friendly
streetscape that Lark Street has strived for. Unfortunately,
the benches attracted homeless people who stretched out to
sleep, with their belongings strewn on the sidewalk. In addition,
intoxicated people often collapsed on or under the benches.
The police were frequently called to deal with these situations.
Often neighborhood residents were not comfortable walking
and being approached by panhandlers on the street. Such an
environment is not conducive to attracting customers to the
stores that are in the area.
I would like to clarify that I was not named “Mayor of Lark
Street,” but rather “Father of Lark Street.” The former denotes
something frivolous, the latter, a person who was involved
in the founding of the mystique of Lark Street—a designation
that makes me proud.
I hope Mr. DePrima and his “reliable sources” are more accurate
in the future.
You for Your Support
am writing in response to the article titled “Rabbit Eeriness”
written by Peter Hanson [Picture This, March 28]. I was extremely
happy to see recognition given to Donnie Darko, one
of the most intriguing and under-seen movies of last year.
I couldn’t agree more with Peter when he states “Donnie
Darko might well be the best David Lynch film that David
Lynch didn’t make.” In many cases, this is more focused and
creatively successful than the Lynch of recent years.
Being a movie buff, I had followed strong buzz on the movie
for quite some time before its release, and was very disappointed
when not even the Spectrum 7 carried a print. When I finally
saw it on DVD, the movie completely took me by surprise (a
rarity nowadays). First-time writer/director Richard Kelly
has talent to spare, and I hope the right people see it so
that he has the proper funding for future projects. Donnie
Darko has huge potential for cult status; it just needs
to find its audience over the years to come. The article you
printed has made that process a little easier, and as a lover
of film, I thank you for it.
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