How Medieval Law Led to Free Government

King John of England signing the Magna Carta

As the world prepares to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, it is good to acknowledge the debt the modern world owes to its medieval predecessors. They were the ones who nurtured the idea of the rule of law and clearly broke with the despotism of former and later regimes.

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M. Stanton Evans clearly establishes this link when he writes that “As an abundant record demonstrates, it was the era of the Middle Ages that nourished the institutions of free government, in contrast to the ideas and customs of the ancients. Conversely, it was the rejection of medieval doctrine at the Renaissance that put all Western liberties at hazard, leading to autocracy in Europe and despotic practice in the modern era” (M. Stanton Evans, The Theme is Freedom: Religion, Politics, and the American Tradition, Regnery Publishing, Washington D.C., 1994, p. 150).