Literature Study GuidesThe Magna CartaSection 12 Section 16 Summary

The Magna Carta | Study Guide

King John

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The Magna Carta | Section 12–Section 16 | Summary



Section 12

No scutage (tax) will be levied unless agreed to by common counsel. The only exceptions are to ransom the king, make the king's eldest son a knight, or provide for the marriage of the king's eldest daughter. And these three exceptions will be reasonable.

Section 13

The king recognizes and permits the particular liberties of the City of London and other cities.

Section 14

This gives the composition of the common counsel referred to in Section 12. It will be made up of all the archbishops, bishops, great barons, earls, abbots, sheriffs, bailiffs, and landowners. They will meet on a set date at a set place and will be given 40 days notice as to this date and place. If those summoned do not come, the meeting will still proceed.

Section 15

The king will not allow any of his lords to levy any additional aid (tax). The exceptions are to ransom the lord, make the lord's eldest son a knight, or provide for the marriage of the lord's eldest daughter. These three exceptions will be reasonable.

Section 16

No one can be required to do more military service as part of their "knight's fee" than is reasonable.


In general, Sections 12 through 16 make rules about the levying of aids and fees. These are both types of payments made by barons to the king or made by the barons' subordinates to the baron. Section 12 specifically limits aids and fees paid to the king, establishing the requirement that any such payments be agreed to by common counsel. Section 14 elaborates on this. Section 15 extends protections against unfair taxes and payments to those who were under the barons. Section 13 preserves the rights and liberties of London. Most importantly this is the right to elect a mayor and officials, which gave London a measure of autonomy. Section 16 concerns those landowners who paid the king through service rather than assets.

Section 12 has been very important to modern government in both Britain and the United States. It contains the rudiments of the parliamentary system of modern Britain. It specifies the king cannot exact payments from free men without the consent of a body of officials and advisors. It was also used by America's founders to justify breaking from Britain. The colonies were being taxed without having a representative in Parliament.

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