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History's Happenings for June 15

Magna Carta Signed
1215

England's King John

In a meadow called Runnymede, not far from medieval London, England, the first vestiges of representative government were created by a document later known as Magna Carta, or "Great Charter", signed this day in 1215. The English baronage had had it with the abuses of King John, and were ready to demand a change in a feudal world not accustomed to such demands upon the Crown, which reigned absolute.

Absolutism did not die that day, nor has it ever met its final end, but from the demands intended to assuage the grievances of the aristocracy, the slow and painful birth of modern representative democracy can be discerned.

Among the many passages of Magna Carta to slowly evolve into today's freedoms, this one reflects the birth of English Common Law, the basis of our sense of justice (at least until the onslaught of modernism), and is the foundation of our Fifth Amendment rights:

"No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or dispossessed, or outlawed, or banished, or in any way destroyed ... except by the legal judgement of his peers and by the law of the land."

It was a right founded on the field at Runnymede in the thirteenth century; was won again with blood in the English Civil War of the seventeenth, and still again by the new American nation in the eighteenth. Pray we need only fight to defend it, not to regain it.

Franklin Flies His Kite
1752

Benjamin Franklin

It was on June 15, 1752 that Benjamin Franklin -- well known patriot, politician, editor, philosopher and inventor -- flew his kite in a thunderstorm in order to capture what he was sure would be electrical current from a bolt of lightning. ("Kids ... Don't try this at home!")

The experiment an apparent success, Franklin went on to invent the lightning rod, as it is still used today. As well as the Franklin stove. And bifocals. And Poor Richard's Almanac with its earthy good sense.

And oh, by the way, also found time to represent his community to the King's government, to represent the new American nation to the King of France at our most trying time, and also to co-author both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

All in a day's work, Mr. Franklin. Did we mention that "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"?

Arkansas Admitted to Union
1836

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Charles Goodyear Patents Vulcanized Rubber
1844

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Arlington Cemetery Established
1864

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U.S. Forces Invade Marianas; B-29's Hit Japan
1944

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