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Its powers.

tion, after a period of obscuration, was restored in another shape by De Montfort and Edward I., in the 13th century.

The powers of the Witenagemot were most extensive,

greater even than those of the modern Parliament. Deposition (1) It had the power of deposing the King for inisof the King

government. So great a step would obviously only be taken at rare intervals. In Vorthumbria, indeed, the deposition of Kings, with more or less of violence and bloodshed, is cxtraordinarily frequent; but two only, Ethelwald (probably:) in 765, and Alcred (certainly) in 774, can be said to have been regularly deposed by the Ilitenagemöt. In the royal line of the West Saxons, which grew into the royal line of the English, there were altogether three instances of deposition by the litan before the Norman Conquest. In 755, Sigeberlit of Wessex was deposed by the litan, and Cynewulf, his kinsman, elected in his stead. Ethelred II. was in like manner practically deposed in 1013, and again restored in 1014;! and in 1037 Harthacnut (who had reigned as King of the West Saxons while his brother Harold reigned to the nortlı of the Thames, probably with a supremacy over the whole kingdom) was deposed in Wessex and Harold chosen King over all England. Since the Norman Conquest, the deposing power has been three times exercised by the

Id. ii. 219.

chester in 934, which was atten(led by the King, four Welsh princes, two archbishops, seventeen bishops, four abbots, twelve duces, and fifty-two thegns, making a total of ninety-two persons, is described as being executed 'cota populi generalitate.”—Kemble, Sax., ii. 199.

Alcred.consilio et consensu suorum omnium, regiae familiae ac principum destitus societate, exilio imperii mutavit majestatem. Sin. Dunel. an. 774. Of fifteen Kings of Northumbria in the 8th century, thirteen ended their reigns hy extraordinary means. See the list in Stubbs, Const. Hist. i. 137. 3 Chron. Angl.-Sax. an. 755 ; Flor. Wigorn. an. 755 ; and Kemble, Saxons,

* Flor. Wig. an. 1013, 1014; Chron. Angl. Sax. 1014. The ealdormen of Wessex and all the thegns of the West came to Swend at Bath and submitted to him, giving hostages. “Putting the language of the different accounts together,' says Freeman (Norm. Conq. i. 396), there can be little doubt that this was, or professed to be, a formal act of the Witan of Wessex, deposing Ethelred and raising Swend to the throne.'

• Chron. A. Sax. an. 1037 (Earle, p. 166).

ii. 219.

National Parliament, in the cases of Edward II. in 1327, Richard II. in 1399, and James II. in 1688. (2) The Witenagemót had the power of electing the Election of

Kings. King. All the old Teutonic kingdoms were elective; but in every kingdom there was a royal family, out of which the Witan had the right to elect the most competent member to discharge the functions of king. The cldest son of the last king, if of full age and not manifestly incompetent, was usually chosen to succeed his father. But at a period when the personal character and military prowess of the King werd of the utmost importance, minorities were too dangerous to be endured. Thus Ethelred I., in 566, was chosen in preference to the issue of his elder brother; and at his own death in 871, leaving only young children, was himself succeeded by his younger brother Elfred. King Æthelstan, again, though reputed illegitimate, was preferred in 9-5 to the younger but legitimate sons of Eadward the Elder.” In 946, Eadwig, son of Eadmund, was passed by in favour of his uncle Eadred; but on Eadred's death in 955 was elected to the exclusion of that king's issue. In 1042, Eadward the Confessor was chosen in preference to the absent son of his elder brother, Eadmund Ironside. Finally, in 1066, the whole royal house was passed by, and Earl Harold, the most able general and statesman of his time, was elected King. The race of Cerdic had once before been passed by, when, in 1017, Cnut was chosen King ; but this election, though good in form, was made under duress. A certain preference seems to have been given to the issue born after the accession of the father to the throne -the porphyrogeniti, sons born in the purple ; and a certain

· Infra, chap. vi. Henry VI. was not, strictly speaking, deposed by Par. liament. When Richard, Duke of York, claimed the throne, a parliamentary compromise was come to between them : and Henry, who was looked upon by the Yorkists as having broken this compromise, was ultimately set aside by a purely partisan assembly. Charles I. was never deposed, but tried and executed being king, a proceeding wholly without precedent in English history.

Illegitimacy, however, says Kemble, was not considered a valid ground of objection among the Anglo-Saxons, if the personal qualities of the prince were such as to recommend him.'-Saxons in England, ii. 37, n.


preference was also acquired by the recommendation of the last king : thus Eadgar recommended his son Eadward to the Witan, and Eadward the Confessor recommended Earl Harold. But on every fresh accession ‘the great compact between the king and the people was literally, as well as symbolically, renewed, and the technical expression for ascending the throne is, being "gecoren and áhafen tó cyninge," elected and raised to be King; where the álafin refers to the old Teutonic custom of what we still at election times call chairing the successful candidate; and the gecoron denotes the positive and foregone conclusion of a

real election.'? The Wilan

(3) The Witcnagcmòt had a direct share in every act of participate government. In conjunction with the King, the Witan of govern

enacted laws and levied taxes for the public service; made alliances and treaties of peace; raised land and sea forces when occasion demanded ; made grants of folkland; appointed and deposed the bishops, ealdormen of shires, and other great officers of Church and State ; adjudged the lands of offenders and intestates dying without heirs to be forfeit to the king ; and authorized the enforcement of ecclesiastical decrees. Lastly, the Witan acted from time to time as a supreme court of justice, both in civil and criminal causes.

in every act


I See Freeman, Norm. Conq. i. 116, 596.
: Kemble, Saxons in England, ii. 215.

3 See Kemble, Saxons in England, ii. 204—240, where numerous examples will be found of the exercise by the Witan of all the powers enumerated in the text. These powers are grouped by him into the following twelve canons :

i. "First, and in general, they possessed a consultative voice, and right to

consider every public aci, which could be authorized by the King. ii. The Witan deliberated upon the making of new laws which were to be

added to the existing folcrint, and which were then promulgated by

their own and the King's authority. iii. The Witan had the power of making alliances and treaties of peace,

and of settling their ternis. iv. The Witan had the power of electing the King. v. The Witan had the power to depose the king, if his government was

not conducted for the benefit of his people. vi. The King and the Witan had power to appoint to vacant sees. vii. They had also power to regulate ecclesiastical matters, appoint feasts

and festivals, and decide upon the levy and expenditure of ecclesias

tical revenue. viii. The King and the Witan had power to levy taxes for the public service.

powers not

But although the powers of the Witan were so extensive, These ex

tensive the

active exercise of them varied greatly with the personal character and influence of each occupant of

the throne, invariably

exerted : Strong kings, like Ælfred and Ethelstan, were able, by the legitimate exercise of personal influence, to lead the Witan in whatever direction they pleased, and thus to attain the practical enjoyment of supreme power. Towards the close of the pre-Norman period, many of the powers which had been originally shared by the King and the Witan, were in fact exercised by the King alone; but in the two cardinal except in matters of legislation and the imposition of extraordinary and taxataxation, the right of the Witan to give counsel and consent tion. was at all times recognized.

The great original principle of the English judicial sys- Judicial tem was that of trial in local courts popularly constituted, or as it was termed in later times, trial per pais, in the presence of the country, as opposed to a distant and unknown tribunal. This was at once an evidence of freedom and the surest guarantee for its permanence. But before describing the different local courts, it is necessary to notice, shortly, the principle of pledges, by which provision was made that every man should be either personally forthcoming, or have some representative bound to answer for him, in every case of litigation. A collective responsibility for producing an offender The Frith

borh, or appears originally to have lain upon the magth or commu- Frank nity of the kindred ; 1 it then devolved upon the voluntary pledge. associations called guilds; and later on the guild was superseded by the local responsibility of the tithing, the

ix. The King and his Witan had power to raise land and sea forces, when

occasion demanded. x. The Witan possessed the power of recommending, assenting to, and

guaranteeing grants of lands, and of permitting the conversion of

folcland into bócland, and vice versa. xi. The Witan possessed the power of adjudging the lands of offenders

and intestates to be forfeit to the King. xii. Lastly, the Witan acted as a Supreme Court of Justice, both in civil

and criminal causes.' 'The wife, however, it should be noted, did not enter her husband's mægth on marriage, but remained in her own, and her kindred alone made compensa. tion. Schmid, Die Gesetze der Angel-Sachsen.

exact nature of which is doubtful, but which seems to have been a personal and territorial subdivision of the hundred practically identical with the township. Eventually, though probably not much earlier than the Norman Conquest, for the local tithing was substituted the personal collective Frithborh, or Frankpledge. Every freeman, not being a hlaford, was bound to be enrolled in a frith-borh, or tinmannctali as it was called in the North ; that is, an association of ten men who formed a perpctual collective bail for the appearance of any one of their number when required to answer in a court of law. Each association had its headman, the borhs-caldor, or frith-borgehead, who was also called the tithing-man, as the body of ten was also called the tithing. If an accused member appeared and was condemned, he had to make reparation by his own property or by personal punishment ; but if he fied from justice, the other members of the tithing, in default of exculpating themselves from all share in his crime

or escape, were pecuniarily liable for the penalty. Responsi. Side by side with the collective responsibility of the bility of the Hlaford for

local community or of the personal association, was the his depend. individual responsibility of the hlaford for his men. By a

law of Ethelstan, every landless man was to have a lord to answer for his appearance; and by an ordinance of King Eadgar it was enacted : ‘Let every man so order that he have a “borh” (surety]; and let the “borh” then bring and hold him to every justice ; and if any one then do wrong and run away, let the “borh" bear that which he ought to bear. But if it be a thief, and if he can get hold of him within twelve months, let him deliver him up to justice,

, and let be rendered unto him what he before had paid.'' Courts of the The two principal local courts were those of the hundred Hundred and the shire. The Hundred court was held once a month, and the Shire. under the presidency of the hundred-man, or hundreds



Eadgar's Ordinance of the Hundred, cap. 6. On the origin and nature of the Tithing and the Frithborh or Frankpledge--the subject of a great litera · ture-see Stubbs, Sel, Chart. 68, and Const. Hist. i. 86-88.

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