a former member of the Mansion Neighborhood Association and
still a resident of Albany’s South End, I have to agree with
Mark Yolle [Letters, April 4]. It’s interesting that people
from other areas of the Capital Region seem to think they
have the answers to inner-city problems and blight. They were
the first to run to the suburbs, rather than stay and help
solve the problems, and they’re the first to bring their trash
to dump on our streets in an effort to save themselves a few
bucks at the town dump.
If you’re really interested in helping to save the city, sell
your suburban home, save the pollution and get rid of your
SUV, and buy a home in the city. There are many affordable
homes in lovely neighborhoods, and many not-so-lovely ones
that are well worth salvaging. If I had the talent, I’d snap
up a house in the Mansion Neighborhood tomorrow. Many still
have original pocket doors, acid-etched glass in their entries,
original wood moldings and plaster ceiling medallions. You
can’t afford to buy those luxuries today.
The city offers many conveniences, arts, great public transportation,
parks and more. It also offers something sorely lacking in
the suburbs: Diversity, culture and the opportunity for children
to learn about other people from something other than a book
or video. Real-life experience is the best teacher, and our
schools are full of diversity in their student populations
and teaching staff. Three cheers for MNA and their ever-progressive,
hard-working members who refuse to give up the good fight.
Carta the Matter
missed the edition of Metroland with the original article
by Erin Sullivan, so I have no right to comment on whatever
she had to say [“Who’s to Judge?” Feb. 28; Letters, March
7]. It is my opinion that readers of the letters in the issue
of April 4 will learn little about the original Magna Carta
or the conditions under which it was generated.
I suggest that interested readers find a copy of the Encyclopedia
Britannica, 11th ed., vol. xvii, p. 314, published in
1911, for a short article on Magna Carta written by the scholar
Arthur W. Holland from Oxford University, which is surely
authoritative. It seems that Runnimede (his spelling)—where
the barons gathered—is not far from Windsor Castle where John
was ensconced during the deliberations. Our author states
that the king did indeed ride over each day to meet the assemblage
of barons. There is no mention of drawn swords or threats
of skewering, but the threat of taking action if the king
did not meet their demands was very real.
The beneficiaries of these demands were, of course, the baronage
and their followers, and also freemen. There is no mention
of the serfs (villeins) who made up a majority of the population.
The Magna Carta consisted of 63 Chapters, each of which is
described by Holland in basic English, free of legalese. The
fundamental intent of Magna Carta, says Holland, is “restorative.”
That is, it is a restatement of the rights of the nobles and
freemen which had been granted by previous sovereigns such
as Edward the Confessor and Henry I. In particular, it limited
the king’s right to impose and collect taxes. It did not break
new ground. In Holland’s words: “Magna Carta can hardly be
said to have introduced any new ideas.” There are many other
provisions too numerous to mention.
As soon as the king had signed off on Magna Carta, he began
to subvert the agreement. He sought and got the intervention
of the pope, who declared Magna Carta null and void, since
it had been obtained by “extortion,” and excommunicated the
barons, leading to a war between forces of the king (including
foreign forces), and those of the barons. The barons (many
of whom had long-standing ties to estates in Normandy) then
offered the kingship to Louis, son of the future French king.
With the war still going forward, John died in 1216, ending
B. Brower, Jr.
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