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neither severity nor lenity seems to have availed to restrain the general turbulence of the people. The laws are filled with complaints of the open violations of the public peace. The relatives of a murdered man freely maintained the right to vengeance, and open morth,' as the private feud was termed, frequently went on for a long period between the two families. The law of money compensation must be regarded therefore as showing rather what society was intended to be, than what in very many instances it actually was. For certain offences, the punishment of exile was inflicted ; and the man who fled from trial became an outlaw, whom any one might slay as lic would a wild

bcast. Ancient The laws of the Englislı, the most ancient of modern English

laws, extend in an unbroken scries from the laws of Ethellaws. (1.1). 600– berht, the first Christian king of Kent (A.D. 600), down to 1066).

the present time. The earliest written collections are simply digests of local unwritten customs which had been handed down by oral tradition, and which were now put into writing to meet the requirements of a more developed and centralized state organization. Many of these early laws consist of amendments of older unwritten customs, and from our lack of knowledge of the customs intended to be amended, are necessarily somewhat obscure. Even when the laws are clear, the great bulk of them concern chiefly such questions as the practice of compurgation, ordeal, wergild, sanctity of holy places, persons, or things; the immunity of estates belonging to churches, and the tables of penalties for crimes, in their several aspects as offences against the law, the family, and the individual.'? But scattered through the collection there occur from time to time many enactments of the highest interest and importance as elucidations of the early history of the

constitution." Early at. Some of these laws—.g., those of Ælfred (A.D. 890), of

i Stubbs, Sel. Chart. 60.

These passages are collected by Professor Stubbs in his Select Charters, pp. 60–75.

Æthelred (978–1016), of Cnut (1016–1035), and those tempts at ascribed to Eadward the Confessor (1043-1066), exhibit

Codification. traces of early attempts at codification. But the name Code cannot with propriety be applied to them. They are unsystematic and fragmentary, and such general principles as they enunciate are not legal definitions, but maxims drawn from religion or morality.

Of all our early kings, Elfred the Great has enjoyed the Elfred as a widest fame as a legislator. Popular legend has repre

legislator sented him as the personal author of nearly all our institu. tions, of many of which the germs cxisted ages before, while the existing forms cannot be discerned till ages after him. There is no doubt that, like many others of our early kings, Elfred collected and arranged the laws of his predecessors; but his real position, as a compiler of old rather than an originator of new legislation, is accurately set forth by himself in the preamble to his ‘Dooms;' 'I then, Elfred, King, these [laws] together gathered, and had many of them written which our fore-gangers held, those that me-liked. And many of them that me not liked, I threw aside, with my wise-men's thought, and on other wise bade to hold them. For why, I durst not risk of my own much in writ to set, for why, it to me unknown was what of them would like those that after us were. But that which I met, either in Ine's days my kinsman, or in Offa's the king of the Mercians, or in Æthelberht's that erst of English kin baptism underwent, those that to me rightest seemed, those have I herein gathered, and the others passed by. I then, Ælfred, King of the West Saxons, to all my Wise Men these showed, and they then quoth that to them it seemed good all to hold.'1

The general features of the institutions and laws of the English people during the five hundred years preceding the Norman Conquest have now been briefly surveyed. In Diversities different districts and at different periods a great diversity custom.

Elfred's Dooms. Thorpe's Anc. Laws and Institutes, i. 55, 59 ; Free. man, Norm. Conq. 53.

from per

of local customs prevailed : but amidst many varieties of detail the essential principles and general machinery of government possessed, throughout the characteristics which have been described. It must not, however, be supposed

that during this lengthened period the institutions of the Gradual English were at any time stationary. They were subject process of develop

to a marked though gradual process of development, the ment : general tendency of which may be described as a move

ment from the personal organization characteristic of all

ancient systems of government towards the territorial sonal to territorial

organization which forms the basis of the modern State. organization. At the beginning of the period, the Anglo-Saxon Kings

were the leaders of thic people not the lords of the soil, their jurisdiction was primarily over the persons of their subjects, not over the territories included within the geographical boundaries of their kingdom. Towards the close of the pre-Norman period, the King, though still King of the English' had become, in addition, lord of the English land. Nearly two centuries were indeed to elapse before King John should declare himself, on his great seal, “Rex Angliae' instead of 'Rex Anglorum,' but the transition from the tribal to the territorial system, from the kingship of the people to the conception of the King as feudal lord of both kingdom and people, was already far advanced

towards completion. Increase in But whilst, in theory, the power of the King was rising power of the great nobles. higher and higher, it was practically limited by the siinul

taneous advance in the power of the great nobles who were constantly tending towards a position not far removed from that of the great feudatories of the Continent. Under

1

Palgrave, Eng. Commonwealth, pt. i. p. 62. • Stubbs (Const. Hist. i. 166, 168) says : • The Angelcynn of Alfred becomes the Engla-lande of Canute. The Anglo-Saxon king never ceases to he the king of the nation, but he has become its lord and patron rather than its father ; and that in a state of society in which the lordship is bound up with landownership : he is the lord of the national land, and needs only one step to become the lord of the people by that title. This step was, however, taken by the Norman lawyers and not by the English king; and it was only because the transition seemed to them so easy, that they left the ancient local organization unimpaired, out of which a system was to grow that would ultimately reduce the landownership to its proper dimensions and sunctions.'

Eadward the Martyr the condition of England was not unlike that of France under Charles the Bald. The great earls, or caldormen of provinces, were forming a separate order in the State inimical alike to the supremacy of the King and the liberty of their fellow subjects. Cnut divided The great the kingdom into four grcat carldoms or duchics; and carldoms the same policy was continued by Eadward the Confessor, and Endin whose reign the whole land seems to have been divided war the

Confessor, among five earls, three of them being Earl Godwinc and his sons Harold and Tostig. The power and statesmanship of William the Norman prevented the threatened disintegration of the kingdom.

under Cnut

46

CHAPTER II.

THE NORMAY CONQUEST.

Disputeil succession to the crown.

On the death of Eadward the Confessor, (5th of January, 1066,) the succession to the crown was disputed. The heir of the house of Cerdic, Eadgar the Ethcling, grandnephew of the late king, was not only of tender age, but, as his after-life showcd, of fccble character and mediocre intellect. The political exigencies of the kingdom imperatively demanded an able and resolute man as its head.

King Eadward on his death-bed had recommended as his Earl successor his brother-in-law, Earl Harold. The Earl was Harold :

the most able general and statesman of the time, already exercising a quasi-royal authority through his own personal influence and the vast possessions of the Godwine family, and, though lacking the blood of Cerdic in his veins, was allied to the English royal house by affinity, and by blood

to the Danish house which had so lately occupied the elected and throne.) The Witan, who were at this time assembled in crowned king

their ordinary mid-winter session, approving of Eadward's recommendation, elected Earl Harold King of the English, and he was forthwith anointed and crowned by Ealdred, Archbishop of York?

But there was another competitor for the crown in the

· Harold's mother, Gytha, was a sister of Ulf Jarl and first cousin once removed of King Cnut.—Thorpe’s Lappenberg, Ang. Sax. pp. 280, 370,

• Flor. Wigorn. an. 1066. Quo [Eadwardo] tumulato, Subregulus Haraldus, Godwini Ducis filius, quem Rex ante suam decessionem regni successorem elegerat, a totius Angliae primatibus ad regale culmen electus, die eodem ab Aldredo Eboracensi Archiepiscopo in Regeni est honorifici consecratus.'

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