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Urban Solutions

To the Editor:

As a former member of the Mansion Neighborhood Association and still a resident of Albany’s South End, I have to agree with Mark Yolle [Letters, April 4]. It’s interesting that people from other areas of the Capital Region seem to think they have the answers to inner-city problems and blight. They were the first to run to the suburbs, rather than stay and help solve the problems, and they’re the first to bring their trash to dump on our streets in an effort to save themselves a few bucks at the town dump.

If you’re really interested in helping to save the city, sell your suburban home, save the pollution and get rid of your SUV, and buy a home in the city. There are many affordable homes in lovely neighborhoods, and many not-so-lovely ones that are well worth salvaging. If I had the talent, I’d snap up a house in the Mansion Neighborhood tomorrow. Many still have original pocket doors, acid-etched glass in their entries, original wood moldings and plaster ceiling medallions. You can’t afford to buy those luxuries today.

The city offers many conveniences, arts, great public transportation, parks and more. It also offers something sorely lacking in the suburbs: Diversity, culture and the opportunity for children to learn about other people from something other than a book or video. Real-life experience is the best teacher, and our schools are full of diversity in their student populations and teaching staff. Three cheers for MNA and their ever-progressive, hard-working members who refuse to give up the good fight.

Wanda Lubinski

The Carta the Matter

To the Editor:

I missed the edition of Metroland with the original article by Erin Sullivan, so I have no right to comment on whatever she had to say [“Who’s to Judge?” Feb. 28; Letters, March 7]. It is my opinion that readers of the letters in the issue of April 4 will learn little about the original Magna Carta or the conditions under which it was generated.

I suggest that interested readers find a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., vol. xvii, p. 314, published in 1911, for a short article on Magna Carta written by the scholar Arthur W. Holland from Oxford University, which is surely authoritative. It seems that Runnimede (his spelling)—where the barons gathered—is not far from Windsor Castle where John was ensconced during the deliberations. Our author states that the king did indeed ride over each day to meet the assemblage of barons. There is no mention of drawn swords or threats of skewering, but the threat of taking action if the king did not meet their demands was very real.

The beneficiaries of these demands were, of course, the baronage and their followers, and also freemen. There is no mention of the serfs (villeins) who made up a majority of the population. The Magna Carta consisted of 63 Chapters, each of which is described by Holland in basic English, free of legalese. The fundamental intent of Magna Carta, says Holland, is “restorative.” That is, it is a restatement of the rights of the nobles and freemen which had been granted by previous sovereigns such as Edward the Confessor and Henry I. In particular, it limited the king’s right to impose and collect taxes. It did not break new ground. In Holland’s words: “Magna Carta can hardly be said to have introduced any new ideas.” There are many other provisions too numerous to mention.

As soon as the king had signed off on Magna Carta, he began to subvert the agreement. He sought and got the intervention of the pope, who declared Magna Carta null and void, since it had been obtained by “extortion,” and excommunicated the barons, leading to a war between forces of the king (including foreign forces), and those of the barons. The barons (many of whom had long-standing ties to estates in Normandy) then offered the kingship to Louis, son of the future French king. With the war still going forward, John died in 1216, ending the struggle.

W. B. Brower, Jr.

Metroland welcomes typed, double-spaced letters (computer printouts OK), addressed to the editor. Or you may e-mail them to: Metroland reserves the right to edit letters for length; 300 words is the preferred maximum. You must include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers. We will not publish letters that cannot be verified, nor those that are illegible, irresponsible or factually inaccurate.

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4th Floor, Albany, NY 12210
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