All fish-weirs are in future to be entirely removed from the Thames and the Medway, and throughout the whole of England, except on the sea-coast.
— Magna Carta 1215: Clause 33
51-year old King John and his rebelling nobles and bishops reached a reconciliation on June 15, 1215. The Magna Carta was no doubt a political document but also seemingly-ridiculously included terms regarding fish-weirs and marriage portion of a widow. Anyway, maybe this is the very reason why we can still see yachts and freighters on the Thames!
The signing of the Magna Carta was not the commencement of democracy since it still admitted the king’s authority and sovereignty. But the fact that it specifically limited the king’s political rights (especially that the king need plenary consent to declare war and impose extra tax), actually established the contractual relationship between the king, the government and the people (though apparently a compromised portion of the whole population in that case). Even more importantly, the supervisory mechanism guaranteed the functioning of that newborn system. That, together with the concept of nomocracy, formed the kernel of our civilization of constitutionalism.
As a grown-up from an oriental cultural background, I could never imagine the surrender of an emperor to his people. Perhaps the fading of a prosperity in the old time and the hard struggling to reviving had been doom, when some people in another corner of the world unconsciously opened a new era.
From my standpoint, the Magna Carta was never a rational contribution of some great historical figures, but rather a product of a bargain between some quibbling servants and an ambitious but limited emperor. It was a treaty and a promise made by the king to his people. However, as the origin of modern constitutionalism, the Magna Carta widely influenced and is still influencing the United Kingdom and the whole world.