Another Crazy Bill in New Hampshire

New Hampshire has perhaps the largest legislature in the country, called the New Hampshire General Court. As a result, they have lots of whackos who submit some seriously crazy bills. Like how about a bill requiring that every other bill justify itself by reference to the Magna Carta?

The eyebrow-raiser, set to be introduced when the Legislature reconvenes next month, requires legislation to find its origin in an English document crafted in 1215.

“All members of the general court proposing bills and resolutions addressing individual rights or liberties shall include a direct quote from the Magna Carta which sets forth the article from which the individual right or liberty is derived,” is the bill’s one sentence.

Ironically, that bill contains no such warrant.

New Hampshire lawmakers might have trouble applying passages like, “We shall straightway return the son of Llewelin and all the Welsh hostages,” or, “If anyone who has borrowed a sum of money from Jews dies before the debt has been repaid, his heir shall pay no interest on the debt for so long as he remains under age.”

One of the bill’s sponsors admitted that he wasn’t terribly familiar with the actual text, and mainly saw the measure as an homage. New Hampshire Democratic Party spokesman Ray Buckley said he was “mostly speechless” when he heard about the bill. “I appreciate all the hard work the Republican legislators are putting into the effort to make them look like extremists,” he said. “Saves us the trouble.”

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  • timberwoof

    We should write the ass-hat who submitted that bill and congratulate him on his fine perception. Then suggest that he introduce a bill into the state legislature that would protect men in criminal cases from testimony of any woman—and quote the Magna Carta as the source of that idea.

    These ass-hats are the same ones who shrieked like stuck pigs when someone suggested that the US consider foreign laws and decisions in legislation and jurisprudence. The point, of course, is not that the Magna Carta is an outdated document of a foreign government; it is that it supports only a very limited concept of universal human rights.

  • peterh

    Do the NH legislators realize the only “freemen” of the Magna Carta are the landed barons? That it does give certain rights to a titular monarch? Can any of them read Latin? Do any of hem have any grasp on reality?

  • “One of the bill’s sponsors admitted that he wasn’t terribly familiar with the actual text, and mainly saw the measure as an homage.”

    Homage to what?

    I think this the antithesis of ‘anti-colonialism’.

    Being conservative and wanting to turn the clock back is one thing, but turning it back to BEFORE 1776 seems just a tad unpatriotic.

  • exdrone

    Fi-i-i-inally, we can return to the political vision of the English feudal barons instead of the radical views of those upstart American founding fathers. Although, if we could crank it back to the post-Battle of Hastings Norman lords, I would be happier. Some of the rights instated by the Magna Carta are a bit too progressive.

  • organon

    John Locke –> August 29, 1632 – October 28, 1704

    Magna Carta 1215.

    Let me guess, after the mayflower landed, the pilgrims wrote the magna carta. Later their document was expanded on to become the constitution. Later, the intellectual socialist liberal John Locke, through liberal leaning media, went on the radio and tried to steal credit from jesus. Locke was a commie pinko socialist who tried to sway america toward his liberal agenda, but the courts wouldn’t have it, keeping us as the christian nation the founders established. Until the 1960’s when professors tried to trick the country into believing that the socialist ideas of their fellow liberal should replace the biblical principles in our constitution, prompting activist judges to expel jesus from the constitution. Now it’s up to real americans to return jesus to his rightful place, and to restore god’s law.

  • I wonder if the NH legislators who propose this think the Magna Carta was some sort of religious document, like an English version of the bible, and that they’d be sneaking a bible verse into each bill.

  • Phillip IV

    Dang, that makes another state where no descendant of Gerard d’Athee will ever be able to be granted a bailiwick (one of the less often relevant clauses of the original Magna Carta).

    admitted that he wasn’t terribly familiar with the actual text, and mainly saw the measure as an homage.

    But really, that’s just a sad joke. He doesn’t know what it actually is, or says, but apparently he’s heard good things about it. And that’s why turning all new legislation into a ‘homage’ to it will solve all of our problems. Which, as everyone knows, aren’t really as complicated as they are made out to be, but can easily be solved by applying simple, arbitrary ‘principles’ to them.

    Seriously? 6 year olds apply more strategy and less wishful thinking to their (later) bedtime and (less frequent) bathing related goals than these guys do to state policy.

  • Sastra

    Somehow I think this was part of a not-very-well-thought-out strategy of demanding a legal reference to earlier and earlier texts — until finally they end with the earliest text of all: the Bible.

    After they get acknowledgement and honor for the Magna Carta, for the next stage they’ll probably try to sneak in the Summa Theologica — being unaware, of course, that it’s kinda Catholic.

  • Michael Heath

    I bet there’s one or a handful of a viral emails floating around Wingnuttia which inspired this bill. It’d be fun to peruse them.

  • I thought it was called Magna Carta, without the article. It’s Latin and, if I remember Latin 101 all those many years ago, Latin doesn’t have definitive articles. Of course, I could be wrong.

  • peterh

    @ #8:

    There are texts earlier than those in the babble; some of the babble’s material was stolen from them & reworked – often poorly. Ironically, we do have a smattering of originals of those earlier texts, but we do not have a single original manuscript of the babblical texts.

  • May I propose a bill?


    I propose that it shall be law, that since “Henry by the grace of God King of England, lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine and count of Anjou sends greetings to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, sheriffs, reeves, ministers and all his bailiffs and faithful men inspecting the present charter” and further since “The city of London is to have all its ancient liberties and customs,” all New Hampshire Republicans must shut the fuck up for one year until they learn to stop sponsoring idiotic legislation.

    Wait. The gentleman in the back of the hall insists that this rider is added to the bill being discussed.

    “No bank works of any sort are to be kept up save for those that were in defense in the time of King H(enry II) our grandfather and in the same places and on the same terms as was customary in his time.”

    That is all.

  • organon


    Excellent. I was thinking the same thing earlier. If they seek sources going back to the bible, why stop there. Exactly. Since the stories, and even commandments, are borrowed, why not go back to the sources borrowed from? It could be suggested, but somehow I don’t think it would be well received. Good observation. As for parts of a book, I doubt it a problem, since they only want parts of the Constitution.

  • organon

    I don’t know what it is with the conservative mind and timelines. It’s not only the issue of being history challenged, but even the ability to think across a historical span of time and fit events into that context. I remember seeing an interview with Scalia years ago. I do not remember many details. But there was something hinting that he supported the teaching of ID. He said the Constitution doesn’t mention Evolution. I felt like screaming. It seemed like it couldn’t be happening. He couldn’t have said that. He can’t really hold the view of the Constitution implied in that statement. Why would the constitution mention it, even if it were known at the time? Does it mention the theory of gravity? Does it mention spherical earth or earth revolving around sun? Etc. But in addition to all of the other implications racing through my mind, there was that timeline thing once again. Darwin wasn’t even born when the Constitution was written. Even if he were thinking of Lamarcks theory, it still didn’t happen until sfter the constitution was written, and his theory was called transmutation anyway, not evolution, if I remember right. Charles Darwin’s theories that so enrage so many conservative minds did not come about until the second half of the 1800’s (nineteenth century). There are numerous other absurdities that could be explored regarding the Constitution and the nature of it when confronted by that statement. I’m not even getting into ID not being in the Constitution, or of ID being a religious theory, not scientific, and that forcing the teaching of ID would be forcing science teachers to teach religious theories as science. There’s also that separation issue again. Which is REALLY where the Constitution protects the minds of the nation’s youth. But beyon all that. Beyond the multitude of inherint problems of constitutionality, HOW CAN AN EDUCATED PERSON NOT UNDERSTAND THAT SOMETHING WRITTEN IN THE 1700’s CAN’T MENTION TERMINOLOGY THAT DIDN’T ARISE UNTIL THE 1800’s?!? Same thing happens when looking at US history in general, and the jumbling of events without regard for what occured when, what preceeded what, etc. If they want to borrow from the source, at least make it the Federalist Papers. For an earlier source Locke. But better yet, learn what the constitution is, what the concept of individual rights is, and write intelligent laws consonant with civil liberties. Just some thoughts that have been burried in the back of my mind for a while.

  • mithandir

    I propose all bills henceforward should reference the egyptian book of the dead (in its original hieroglyphics form or as a vetted translation).

    New Hampshire would be so much more … interesting.

  • dingojack

    I propose no bill shall be passed in New Hampshire without reference to The Epic of Gilgamesh and Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime Stories*.



    * Not that I have actually read either in the original, but think of it as an hommage.

  • Aww, Mithandir and Dingo stole my joke 🙁

  • peterh

    The Popul Vu deserves mention, respect, and inclusion!

  • peterh

    Sorry for über italics.

  • juice

    Meh, so some goofy stuff gets in there. Tons of goofy stuff is written into bills all over the place and some of it even makes it to law.

    But how about this for the US Congress? Let’s ratify the first amendment. Actually the first article of the original bill of rights.

    Article the first… After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.

    That would give you about 6175 members of the House. This is the way it was intended and I think it would work much better than it does today. Races for the House would be small local affairs. You would have a very good chance of actually meeting your representative and speaking to him/her in person. There would be many more people that would have to be bought off/bribed to get any kind of cronyism or rent seeking through. Small parties would get through all over the place. Sure, there would be some goofy stuff introduced, but a lot of the truly awful crap that makes it through Congress would likely be killed off more often. It would be messy, but it would be better, IMO.

  • And just think how they could simplify immigration control by referring to this clause:

    “42. It shall be lawful in future for anyone (excepting always those imprisoned or outlawed in accordance with the law of the kingdom, and natives of any country at war with us, and merchants, who shall be treated as if above provided [previous clause]) to leave our kingdom and to return, safe and secure by land and water…”

  • They may have assumed that something with a name like “Magna Carta,” was really an early credit card.

    There were freemen and the laws for them were different than for villeins (bonded servants).

    “20. A freeman shall not be amerced [fined] for a slight offense, except in accordance with the degree of the offense; and for a grave offense he shall be amerced in accordance with the gravity of the offense, yet saving always his “contentment”; and a merchant in the same way, saving his “merchandise”; and a villein shall be amerced in the same way, saving his “wainage” if they have fallen into our mercy: and none of the aforesaid amercements shall be imposed except by the oath of honest men of the neighbourhood.”

    Whoever put them up to this might be thinking of clauses about never constraining the church from her rights and properties, to hold off any changes in tax laws:

    “the English Church shall be free, and shall have her rights entire, and her liberties inviolate; and we will that it be thus observed; which is apparent from this that the freedom of elections, which is reckoned most important and very essential to the English Church…” –in other words, non-interference of the state in the church’s authority structure! = separation of church from state.

    And this will take care of foreclosures:

    “If anyone has been dispossessed or removed by us, without the legal judgment of his peers, from his lands, castles, franchises, or from his right, we will immediately restore them to him; and if a dispute arise over this, then let it be decided by the five and twenty barons…”


    “If we have disseised or removed Welshmen from lands or liberties, or other things, without the legal judgment of their peers in England or in Wales, they shall be immediately restored to them; and if a dispute arise over this, then let it be decided in the marches by the judgment of their peers; for the tenements in England according to he law of England, for tenements in Wales according to the law of Wales, and for tenements in the marches according to the law of the marches. Welshmen shall do the same to us and ours.”

    This seems clear enough: the U.S. shall respect the laws of other countries, e.g. marriages valid in Canada will be valid in the U.S.

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