Magna Carta Travels to Houston for Rare Exhibit Out of England

Image: Magna Carta Travels to Houston for Rare Exhibit Out of England

Tuesday, 11 Feb 2014 01:08 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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A rarely seen copy of the Magna Carta, one of the most important documents in the formation of the modern democracy, will be shipped across the Atlantic Ocean for display at the Houston Museum of National Sciences, the Associated Press reported.

The exhibit, featuring the nearly 800-year-old Magna Carta, will open on Friday. It will be only the second time the document has been away from its home in England's Hereford Chapel. It will be on display for six months before it travels back to the United Kingdom for its birthday. 

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The document was first issued on June 15, 1215 by England's King John in Runnymeade. The object was to avoid a civil war by giving barons certain freedoms for the first time, including an acknowledgement that taxes cannot be arbitrary, that free men cannot be imprisoned without first being judged by their peers or that justice cannot be denied or delayed.

Those three freedoms inspired the United States government.

"The Magna Carta is considered to be Great Britain's most valuable export to the world and is a model upon which the United States Constitution was based," read a statement on the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences website. 

"In more than 100 decisions, the United States Supreme Court has traced dependence on the Magna Carta for an understanding of due process, trial by jury, the importance of a speedy and unbiased trial, and protection against excessive bail or fines or cruel and unusual punishment," the statement continued.

The Associated Press reported that while the Magna Carta did not prevent the impending civil war after the pope nullified it, King John's son, King Henry III reissued it. It is that surviving document that Houston will have on display.

"We are very honored to be the museum with which Hereford Cathedral has elected to share this precious document with Houstonians and many others in Texas and the U.S.," Joel Bartsch, president of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, said in a statement.

"To be able to put on display and unite for the first time in the U.S. a copy of the Magna Carta and King's Writ … is a momentous occasion for HMNS."

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