getting around, history

Magna Carta musings

I’ve been remiss in writing, mainly because I’ve been lazy, but also because I haven’t been inspired. That’s not to say that we haven’t been enjoying our time in Boston and New England – we took our girls to New York City for a whirlwind weekend in early June, spent the day in Providence and saw their amazing Waterfire spectacle for Todd’s birthday, saw “Billy Elliott, The Musical” and comedienne Paula Poundstone in the charming town of Ogunquit, Maine in mid-July, and generally have enjoyed the Spring and Summer in Boston. The Public Garden (with the Swan Boats) is so lovely right now, and walking along the Charles River Esplanade or down Newbury Street with it’s lovely row brownstones makes me feel like I’m in a movie backdrop. As a chef, it’s interesting to me to see how the different fruits and vegetables come in the Farmer’s Market here, about 2 months after they would in Cali. However, the produce here is delicious at the FM, and some, like (gasp!) strawberries and tomatoes, are better than what I’d get at home!

Locally, Shira has been staying with us and working at her first post-graduation full time job doing projects for FlipKey, while Arielle is back in SoCal working at an internship in Neurology at UC Irvine. This is the first summer that I haven’t spent with Arielle, and while I love our almost daily phone calls, I really miss her. To keep busy, I’ve been volunteering at Temple Ohabei Shalom’s preschool since April, reliving those days of having 2-4 year olds. They’re so adorable! Todd, of course, is still working at his project at Boston Medical Center. The wonderful news there is that his contract has now been extended through the end of January, so we get to stay in New England through the Fall and Winter. Yay! It will be a whole year that we’re here, and I’m so glad. I’m really looking forward to seeing the leaves change, and we’re planning a trip to Vermont in October to be “leaf-peepers.”

Now that I’ve caught up on the news, here’s the reason for this post – I recently went to the Museum of Fine Arts exhibit of the Magna Carta, and I was blown away. That’s right…the Magna Carta, the document signed by King John in 1215 that (among other things) limited the power of the executive branch by stating that the people would be ruled by laws, not by fickle monarchs, and enshrined the right to a jury of peers. The document on loan to the MFA is one of four remaining copies that were produced 800 years ago. It is a large sheepskin document, written in Medieval Latin, and looked like it had been folded up to be carried easily.

A close up of the Magna Carta
A close up of the Magna Carta

What is amazing is that the rights demanded by the rebellious English barons so long ago were the same rights that the American Patriots used to demand that King George III honor in the years leading up to the American Revolution, i.e. the king should not be able to arbitrarily impose taxes upon the colonists without their representatives being able to respond. The Patriot’s cry of “Taxation without Representation is Tyranny”…that idea came directly from the Magna Carta.

So regular readers know that I love studying American History (thanks, Daddy!), and while seeing an authentic document written 800 years ago is impressive, that’s not the end of the story. You see, the MFA tied the Magna Carta to an original printed copy of the Declaration of Independence (this copy c. 1800), complete with handwritten manuscripts by none other than Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, themselves. (Side note: they both had excellent penmanship!). The resolutions and conclusion that we ought to be free and independent came directly from the rights espoused in the Magna Carta – King George had overstepped, and we were going to do something about it. The MFA didn’t stop with the Declaration…no, it also had on display a copy of the Constitution, annotated by Elbridge Gerry (a delegate to the Constitutional Convention from Massachusetts) in 1789. Here again the influence of the Magna Carta is witnessed…indeed, the rules and rights of our government flow directly from the rules and rights the barons demanded from King John in 1215. By the time I saw the Constitution on display, I had goosebumps. Before, I had a vague idea that the Magna Carta was important, but I didn’t know why. Coincidentally, I had recently heard a podcast from “History according to Bob” talking about William Marshall (a medieval knight and baron who was an influential figure at the time) and I learned more about the contents of the Magna Carta in the context of those times. But to see this exhibit, to see the progression of how our ideals flowed from this document, well…it hit me hard. Only in this city, the birthplace of America, could I have an experience so profound.

I’ve had a tough time deciding whether to write about this experience because (as you can see) I tend to get passionate and preachy. I don’t just study history, I feel history. My girls just roll their eyes when I try to explain why something or other is important, but I’ve got too much of my History teacher father in me, so they’ll just have to deal with it. If you’ve gotten this far in your reading of this blog, then I thank you. If you’ve had an experience that really moved you, I would love to hear about it. Please comment below or post a comment on Facebook. I promise I won’t judge if you get preachy!

To see a short video of the MFA’s Magna Carta exhibit, Click here:


1 thought on “Magna Carta musings”

  1. This is really amazing. Really had no idea on the magnitude of the relevance of the Magna Carta. I do remember how living in Virginia completely riveted me in the history that happened right where I lived! I am a colonial junkie, and invited all of my CA relatives out to give them my own historic tour when I was a kid. Excited that you get to experience the complete seasons in Boston. I have only been there in the summer but worked in Hartford in the winter. I know that shoes, hats, gloves and coats are best found for that weather in the east! Looking forward to your continuing adventures. As your fellow ex tiny kid teaching partner, gotta say those kids are very lucky to have such a creative and loving person at their pre school. We had an awesome thing going back in the day!


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