The press surrounded the Magna Carta during a photo opportunity when the historic document returned to the National Archives.
one in the
United States. Fiteen copiesreside in British institutions, and the oth-er one is displayed in the Australian parlia-ment. None o these copies, I was told, islikely to ever be sold.Tese acts struck me as particularly unor-tunate, or the Magna Carta—while a prod-uct o the 13th century in England—actual-ly had a signicant impact on our governmentand on our basic rights.
A Last-Minute DecisionTo Attend an Auction
Te Magna Carta’s principles o due pro-cess, trial by jury, habeas corpus, and norepresentation without taxation, amongothers, were central to British commonlaw. And that common law was the oun-returning the night o the auction, the cu-rator ushered me into a small unoccupiedroom and instructed me pick up a tele-phone to hear the auction and to commu-nicate any bids to her. Tis was a ar cry rom the bustling auction foor so oten de-picted in movies and on television. But Igathered that many o the bidders on par-ticularly valuable or newsworthy objects donot want to be seen bidding (or winning),and these private rooms are a solution.Te bidding soon commenced, and aterseveral rounds o competitive bidding, I wasdelighted—and surprised—to hear that my nal bid won the auction.I was then told by the auction house’s o-cials that I could slip out a side door andkeep the new owner and the new where-dation o our own democracy. For that rea-son, each o the colonies embodied mosto these principles in their governing struc-tures, and the Founding Fathers also placedthem in the heart o the Declaration o In-dependence and the Constitution (and,later, the Bill o Rights).So I thought it would be appropriateto try to keep this copy o the Magna Car-ta in the country—to ensure that Americanscould continue to see it, and to thereby becontinuously reminded o its importance toour country. I resolved that evening to returnto New York rom Washington, D.C. (my home), the next night and to win the auction.Having never been to a major auction inmy lie, I was not sure exactly how best toproceed. Imagine my surprise when, upon