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Monday, June 15, 2015

Happy 800th Birthday Magna Carta: A Tax Revolt Against Government Abuse

As with all historical events, you must always understand the context of the era in which an event takes place. True, King John (1166–1216) was forced to sign the Magna Carta on June 15, 1215 at the demands of the elite barons. The reason for that was rather important – the common man was not taxed, only the rich. At the core of this entire issue was a tax revolt over the abuse of government. The abuse was so profound that part of the demand included the right to trial by jury.
John lost the war in France, and desperately needed to raise money to try to regain Normandy. The king had three main sources of income available to him: revenue from their personal lands or demesne, money raised through their rights as a feudal lord, and revenue from taxation. However, whatever revenue a king would obtain from the royal demesne was inflexible and had been diminishing gradually since the Norman Conquest. This was further reduced as King Richard I (1157–1199) sold many royal properties in 1189 for the Crusades.
Taxation played a much smaller role in royal income at that point in time, for this was still more than 100 years from the Black Death of the 14th century that killed about 50% of the population, and resulted in wages at that time replacing serfdom. That led to the first Tax Revolt by the people in 1381.
The taxation that did exist was against the rich barons, not the common people, during the 13th century.English kings did have widespread feudal rights that could be used to generate income. One such feudal right included the scutage system, in which a cash payment to the king could help one avoid feudal military service. So if you did not want to be drafted into the military, you paid a fee to get out of it.
The king also derived income from fines, court fees, and the sale of charters and other privileges. Fines were called “amercements” and at the time, it was said that there was hardly an Englishman of substance who had not been amerced at least once a year. Magna Carta introduced the right to trial by jury, where the people decide if someone is guilty and what the fine should be. This drastically curtailed the king’s abuse of the legal system at that time.King John was very unpopular, for he had intensified his efforts to maximize all possible sources of income to regain Normandy. Contemporary commentators describe him as “Avaricious, miserly, extortionate and money minded.”
King John also used revenue generation as a way of exerting political control over the barons, which led to their revolt of 1215. Debts owed to the crown by the king’s favored supporters might be forgiven, while he would ruthlessly engage in the collection of those owed by enemies or those out of favor.
Magna Carta cut off the king’s ability to use the courts to raise money, as they are doing once again today. The demand for fines to be determined by jury was a major setback for the king’s revenue collection scheme. King John died a year after signing Magna Carta. After John’s death, the regency government of his young son, Henry III (1207–1272), reissued the document in 1216, but stripped off some of its more radical content in an unsuccessful bid to build political support for their cause.
At the end of the war in 1217, the document acquired the name Magna Carta. Henry III was forced to reissue the charter again in 1225 in exchange for a grant of new taxes. His son, Edward I (1239–1307) was also forced to repeat the exercise in 1297, agreeing to sign it in return for taxes. By this time, Magna Carta became a part of England’s statute law.
From a cyclical perspective, Magna Carta was signed on June 15, 1215 (1215.454). If we add the two main frequencies 51.6, we get to 1989.454, which marked the collapse of Communism in China and Russia, while the volatility frequency 72 brings us to 2009.854 – the major low and the start of the Sovereign Debt Crisis.
If we take the 224 year frequency that picked 1999.454, which is the low in gold and the turn in the economy, as well as when Britain sold off a part of its gold reserves making the low. If we add the 37.33 year Monetary Crisis Cycle that also produces 1999.384, confirming the major turn economically.It certainly appears that Magna Carta was an important turning point in history, for it lines up cyclically with critical modern turning points. This tends to support that we are indeed in a period of rising government abuse once again.