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100 years ago: Wisdom in Magna Carta

12 June 2015

June 11th, 1915.

IN ONE respect at least Magna Carta was quite abreast of modern conditions. It granted to foreign merchants full liberty to come and go in England, to buy and sell, without being liable to exactions. But it provided that, in case of war, the King should arrest those who came from the enemy country and, to use the phrase of to-day, "intern" them, until it was known how English merchants residing in the enemy country were treated there. There was wisdom in this clause of the Charter by which we should do well to profit. With absurd magnanimity, which is somewhat of a pose with us, we have gone to the other extreme. The amenities of Donnington Hall are a startling contrast to the vile indignities to which Englishmen are subjected in German prisons. . . The enemy only laughs at us as soft-headed, while we take credit to ourselves for being soft-hearted. In this connexion we note two letters that have lately appeared in the papers. The one stated that among the names of the people for whom a Sussex parish is invited to pray are three Germans now fighting against us. The other affirmed that the roll of honour in the Chapel of New College, Oxford, contains the names of three Germans who fell fighting pro patria. There is a clear distinction between a call to prayer for our enemies and such an ascription of honour as seems to be made at New College. We should hope that the men of New College will see to it that its members who have fought not pro patria but contra patriam shall not be honoured in the Chapel. For New College, as for us, there is but one patria, England.


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