by Laura Matiz
Eight-hundred years ago, on June 15, 1215, Magna Carta was signed by King John of England on the banks of the Thames River in Runnymede. Thus, this iconic Great Charter, signed by the king under pressure from rebel barons tired of a king beyond the law, became an important symbol of liberty and property rights in the English-speaking world. We first learn about Magna Carta in history classes, but my guess is few of us really grasped the significance of the document's place in human history. Magna Carta spells out what we now refer to as human rights, something that still does not exist in some parts of the world where political systems undermine individual freedoms and the security of ownership.
Magna Carta was first published in the Americas by William Penn in 1687. He wrote that Magna Carta described Fundamental Rights given to Englishmen including "freedom of his person and property in his estate." With these rights, owning property becomes protected from the will of any monarch or government such that none can seize your property.
Of course, the importance of Magna Carta for this post is in relation to real estate property. It is the relative safety of these investments that drives individuals, families, and corporations to secure ownership of real estate property. Is it any wonder that pundits have recently described the new luxury developments in Manhattan as safe-deposit boxes for foreign money? Certainly, our deeds, titles, and contracts and their sanctity in the courts leads to a robust system that allows anyone to own a piece of land.
A history buff? Learn more about Magna Carta as it reaches its 800th anniversary: