Nullus vicecomes, vel ballivus noster, vel aliquis alius capiat equos vel caretas alicujus liberi hominis pro cariagio faciendo, nisi de voluntate ipsius liberi hominis.
No sheriff, or bailiff of ours, or anyone else is to take any free man’s horses or carts for transporting things, except with the free man’s consent.
Clause 30 was another clause directed against misconduct by officials, pre-eminently royal ones, but possibly (the reference to `anyone else’ is ambiguous) baronial ones as well. In protecting the horses and carts of free men (and nobody else) against arbitrary seizure, it aimed to prevent the undue exploitation of the crown’s ancient privilege of purveyance (also restricted by Clauses 28 and 31) – its right to take goods it needed against only a promise of future repayment. In this case the goods in question were the means of transport, in the shape of horses and carts. Armies had to have the means to move their supplies, as did the court as it travelled around the country. King John was an exceptionally mobile ruler, and also a rapid one, thanks to the increasing use of horses rather than oxen for the transport of goods. In the period immediately before Magna Carta, moreover, he and his agents oversaw a large-scale programme of restocking castles, as a precaution against rebellion. The king’s need of horses and carts was accordingly constant and great, but his ability to commandeer them was highly unpopular, not least because the promised repayment was not always adequate, if, indeed, any was made. Restricting John’s ability to take the means of transport would bring an abuse under control and also reduce the king’s military effectiveness. The barons aimed only at restriction, however, not abolition, and horses and carts continued to be taken after 1215, albeit with further restrictions added to the texts of Clause 30 in 1216 and 1217.
Please note: commentaries are presently available only for clauses marked with *; more commentary to be added in due course.