This week, we had the rare and exceptional honor of welcoming the 1217 Hereford Magna Carta to the New-York Historical Society! It is now on view—for one week only—through September 30 alongside watershed documents from America’s founding era. Although the “Great Charter” was written centuries before the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, the former undoubtedly influenced the latter.
American patriot leaders drew from a variety of sources when crafting the revolutionary writ and the constitution that followed. They wove together legal concepts penned by enlightened thinkers, as well as new ideas of their own, which fused democratic and republican principles to give rise to a new experiment in government that they named the United States. At the heart of the society that they created was the enduring concept first committed to paper in 1215: all men, even the king, were subject to the law. All free men were entitled to justice and to a fair trial. These ideas originated in the Magna Carta. They were revolutionary concepts for their time. Eight centuries later, though simple, these concepts are still radical, powerful, and resonant. The Magna Carta remains an enduring symbol of the promise of freedom.
Remember: tonight Museum admission is Pay-as-you-wish from 6 to 8 pm. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so don’t miss out! Come see the rare 1217 Magna Carta, a journal from the U.S. Constitutional Convention, and an early copy of the Declaration of Independence now on view at N-YHS!