ENFORCING MAGNA CARTA. How do you go about enforcing a contract with a king? As a modern lawyer, I am struck by how well Magna Carta is drafted. (Here is an English translation.) I am particularly impressed by the provisions for enforcement. A modern contract will contain important language toward the end of the contract which specifies the procedure by which the contract is to be enforced. This was the biggest problem facing the barons, and it resulted in the longest clause—Section 61.

Section 61 provides, in my brief summary, that the barons are to choose 25 of their number who are to be charged with enforcing the contract. If notice of a breach of the contract is given to four of those 25 barons, the four shall lay the transgression before the king. If the king has not corrected the transgression within 40 days, the four barons shall refer the matter to the 25 barons. The 25 barons can then seize the castles and other possessions of the king until redress has been obtained “as they deem fit”. Anybody in the country can swear to obey the orders of the 25 barons for the execution of the matter. The decision of a majority of the 25 barons who are present at a meeting shall bind all of them. The king will not do anything directly or indirectly to procure that any of his concessions might be revoked or diminished.

I think this is probably close to the best that the barons could have gotten. Enforcement was going to depend on military action rather than a court.

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