Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ancestral voices prophesying justice

Section 3, Article 24 of the Mississippi Constitution (1890) is the sort of ringing declaration one usually sees cited in dissenting opinions:
All courts shall be open; and every person for an injury done him in his lands, goods, person, or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law, and right and justice shall be administered without sale, denial, or delay.
I'd never noticed that its language has a venerable ancestor:
NO Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right.
-- Magna Carta (1297 version), section 29.


  1. Makes me wonder whether the phrase has enjoyed currency otherwise in the intervening 600 years; it seems a good candidate as a stock phrase for the narrow niche of constitution and ringing-declaration writers.

  2. AL, CO, CT, DE, ID, KY, ME, MD, MO, MT, ND, NM, NY, NC, OK, PA, TN all have similar language.

    NJ actually incorporates Magna Carta itself as part of its "organic laws." How cool is that?

    (Lawyers: I searched Westlaw for -- that seems like it should catch anything preserving some version of the original wording.

  3. The language was in the 1817 constitution too, and every one thereafter.

    Interesting-- it's translation, and you can find other translations that are even more parallel than the one you picked. "To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice." That's exactly parellel to "sale, denial, or delay." found sale, denial, or delay.