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distress of their proprietors, plainly indicated his policy and rapacity. All the lands of the natives were either seized for the king, or given to his favourites; large tracts formerly cultivated by the industrious Sax. ons were abandoned to the original wildness of nature ; and even whole counties were converted into forests and wastes, to afford an unbounded scope to his passion for the chase.

The severity of the forest laws sufficiently marks the selfishness of his diversions, and the cruelty of his temper. The life of an animal was valued at a higher rate than that of a man ; and this uncontrolled and destructive ambition was extended to the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field.

With the Norman language, which was adopted in the services of the church, as well as in the courts of justice, were introduced the Norman laws. The ancient Trial by Jury was exchanged for the uncertain and unjust decision by single combat. The extinction of all fires at the melancholy sound of the Curfew was a striking emblem of the extinction of liberty. The nation groaned under every distress that an obdurate and politic conqueror could inflict; and their chains were so firmly rivetted, as to require a degree of energy and unanimity to break them, which the timid and oppressed Saxons had not sufficient resolution to exert.

In the following reigns of the Norman tyrants the same hardships were endured with little alleviation. The people still continued to have no resource against the execution of the most sanguinary laws. The exorbitant power of the king, and its frequent abuses, at length roused a spirit of opposition, which was at once determined and irresistible. But as his feudal demesnes were large, and his influence extended over a

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great number of vassals, they did not think themselves sufficiently formidable to oppose his authority, without securing the co-operation of the other possessors of land. They therefore held out to the commons the most advantageous inducements, by promising to stipulate with the king for a redress of all public grievances, and an augmentation of their common privileges.

In Runny Mead the great foundation of English liberty was laid. A. D. 1215. Carte, vol. i, p. 831. There the reluctant and perfidious John, after having repeatedly disregarded their former solicitations, was compelled to sign MAGNA CHARTA, and the CHARTA

The arm of force and terror, which his triumphant barons held over his head, was strengthened by the claims of justice. It is true, indeed, that as they held their estates by the feudal tenure, they were obliged to submit to the conditions he imposed, and to obey the mandates of an arbitrary chieftain. But as all the kings from the conquest had solemnly sworn at their coronation to revive the laws of Edward the confessor, and had uniformly violated their engagements, the barons conceived themselves justifiable, when their partizans and adherents were suffi

OF THE FOREST.

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* He murdered his nephew Arthur with his own hands. See Carte, vol. i, p. 796. I have heard Mr. Tho. Warton say—“ You may read Hume for his elegance; but Carte is the historian for facts.” My careful perusal of his elaborate work has fully confirmed the truth of this observation : and I think him an historian particularly well adapted to the present times of political novelties; as he is an intelligent and zealous advocate for the rights of kings, as well as subjects; and maintains upon all occasions the honour and dignity of the Church of England.

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ciently strong and numerous, in demanding from John, by the power of the sword, the full execution of his promise.

The abject and servile state of the people previous to this auspicious event is sufficiently evident, from considering the immunities granted by Magna Charta, and the Charter of the Forest. The barons vindicated more of their rights than merely consisted in the abolition of their own hardships and grievances. Firm in - their engagements to the commons, who enlisted un

der their standard, they obtained for them the partici. pation of many of their own privileges. They were equally exempted from unreasonable fines, or illegal distresses, for service due to the crown ; and acquired the privilege of disposing of their property by will. The provisions of Magna Cnarta enjoined an uniformity of weights and measures, gave new encouragements to commerce, by the protection of foreign merchants; prohibited all delay in the administration of justice ; established annual circuits of judges ; confirmed the liberties of all cities and districts ; and protected every freeholder in the full enjoyment of his life, liberty, and property ; unless they were pronounced by his peers to be forfeited to the laws of his country.*

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* Nullus liber homo capiatur, vel imprisonetur, vel disseisietur de libero tenemento suo, vel libertatibus, vel jiberis consuetudinibus suis ; aut utlagetur, aut exulet, aut aliquo modo destruetur. Nec super eum ibimus, nec super eum mittemus, nisi per legale judicium parium suorum, vel per legem terra. Nulli vendemus, nulli negabimus, aut differemus judicium, vel rectum.” Magna Charta

cap. 29,

Thus was the first general opposition successfully made against arbitrary power; and those rights were vindicated, which the ancient inhabitants of the island had enjoyed. As Magna Charta was granted under circumstances of great solemnity, and afterwards ratified at the beginning of every subsequent reign, it was a sacred hostage deposited in the hands of the people, for the equitable government of their kings. Unlike the traditional maxims of tyrannical power, to which any colour of interpretation could be given, which might suit the caprice, the folly, or the necessity of absolute monarchs, this celebrated Charter was a public and conspicuous stipulation, to which immediate appeal might be made to determine the right of the commoners to a redress of grievances, and the free administration of justice. It was the root, from which salutary laws gradually branched out, as the state of society became more civilised and enlightened, for the protection and security not only of the proprietors of land and of merchants, who it is to be remarked, were its sole objects, but of persons of every rank and degree in the kingdom.

In the reign of Henry the third, which although it was of longer continuance than that of any other monarch, who has ever swayed the English sceptre, and was remarkable for vexatious conflicts between the haughty barons and a capricious king, we may dis

“ This article is so important, that it may be said to comprehend the whole end and design of political societies; and from that moment the English would have been a free people, if there were not an immense difference between the making of laws, and the observing of them.” De Lolme on the Constitution, p. 28.

cover some of the earliest traces of a representative legislature. The captive monarch, intimidated by the sword of the imperious Simon Montford, Earl of Lei. cester, issued orders for every county to depute persons to assist him and his nobles in their deliberations on state affairs. Thus to the distractions and troubles of these disastrous times, England is indebted for the representatives of the people being first called to parliament.

“ There are still preserved in the tower of London some writs issued, during this reign, for the choice of two knights in each shire, to represent their county in parliament; but this representation was not yet grown to a settled custom: and though there are no summons to either lords or commons, nor any rolls of this particular parliament as yet discovered in any of oựr repositories of records; yet by other accounts given thereof, these lesser barons, knights, and military. tenants holding immediately of the crown, seem to have been summoned, according to John's magna charta, by a general proclamation, to appear not by any repre-sentation, but in their own persons.”

The more regular establishment of the house of commons may, however, be referred to the succeeding reign of EDWARD THE FIRST. A. D. 1295. Anno 4 18. Edw 1. See Brady's Introduction for a copy of one of the writs, p. 149. Carte, vol. ii, p. 151. Strongly actuated by the martial spirit of his age, he engaged in long -and expensive wars against Wales and Scotland, in consequence of which his treasury was exhausted, and his only resource for regular supplies was found in the contributions of his subjects. But as the mode pursued by his predecessors of filling their coffers had been both odious, and in a great de

VOL. II.

B

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