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In this book an effort has been made to compress a sketch of constitutional history for a period of nearly two thousand years, — from the time of the Teutons of Cæsar and Tacitus to the British Empire and the United States of 1890. It is not the polity of any single people that is outlined, but that of the English-speaking race, that body to-day perhaps one hundred and twenty millions strong, scattered in several nationalities actual or incipient, which upon all the continents and all the great islands of the world, stands now so in the foreground of attention. It is a polity one and the same in its essence in England, in the United States, in Australia, in Canada : one and the same in its essence, moreover, as viewed in the institutions of today and in those of the North Germans of the time of Christ. As Sir Francis Palgrave says: “ The new building has been raised upon the old groundwork; the institutions of one age have always been modelled and formed from those of the preceding, and the lineal descent has never been interrupted or disturbed.” Anglo-Saxon freedom is most simply and comprehensively stated in the phrase of Abraham Lincoln, “ government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” In its long history
there have been periods of temporary submergence, adaptation to the needs of ever vaster multitudes and higher civilizations, manifold development and elaboration: one spirit, however, has survived through all, apparent in the deliberations of a modern Congress or Parliament, as also it was apparent in the ancient folk-moots, where the free ceorls chose their army leaders and regulated the life in their marks.
While works upon the constitutional history, both of England and America, abound, they for the most part appeal, both as to style and size, rather to the scholar and the statesman, than to the general reader and the youthful studentl Moreover, in such works it has too seldom happened that the constitutional history of the English-speaking race has been regarded en solidarité : but in this way it is both proper and expedient to regard that history. _England and America are mother and child; the polity of the latter in its origin is a mere outflow from that of the former, the two constitutional streams since the divergence flowing constantly parallel and mutually reacting. Our frequent complaint is that Englishmen fail to understand us; just so, we fail to understand them. Says the Westminster Review, for March, 1889: “England's sternest, coldest, most critical censors, I have found among descendants of the old settlers ; surely they retain something of ancient Puritan bitterness. The source of estrangement I am inclined to trace largely to the fact that the average American reads no history but United States history, and he can hardly be said to study that.” Certainly, to set right the "average American," and also the average Englishman, is a task worth essaying. There ought to be room for a book succinct and simple in its terms, which should tell to busy men and to youth in the class-room, the story of Anglo-Saxon freedom ; for as James Bryce
has said: “It is a matter of the first consequence that the relation to one another of the two branches of the English-speaking race should be more fully understood and realized.”
In the execution of such a task the difficulties are not small. How to preserve a proper historical perspective while viewing upon so reduced a scale such a multitude of events and figures ? What guides to select in threading one's way through the long ages ? There is no period through which one must not proceed with care, and the embarrassments are perhaps as great with respect to times close at hand as with respect to times remote. While this book was in preparation, the establishment of the County Councils has restored to the English shires their ancient local self-government; since it was ready for the printer six Commonwealths have been added to the American Union; as it awaits its publication, an Anglo-Saxon protectorate extends itself more and more widely over Africa, and the federation of Australia may become any month an accomplished fact. These are all events noteworthy in the history of Anglo-Saxon freedom, as are still others of which the newspapers weekly give report. How to catch them accurately and in due proportion? - As to remote ages, the darkness due to the remoteness is further deepened by the controversies of scholars. The employment of representation has commonly been held to be characteristic of Anglo-Saxon societies in the most distant epochs ; but this honor is now denied to them by authorities deserving of high respect, who find no good evidence of the existence of a representative system until after the Norman conquest. Mr. Frederic Seebohm, in his • English Village Communities,” fails to see that the Anglo-Saxon invaders brought with them any freedom at all, as they set up their tuns and scires in their new home : in the settlements that were established a lord ruled as master, with a society under him in a condition of villenage; the free village community was by no means the type, but from the first a marked feudalism in which the mass of men were serfs.
Still more sweepingly, Mr. H. C. Coote, in his “Romans of Britain," will have it that the AngloSaxons transmitted to us not only no freedom, but nothing else. They were simply a horde of invading savages, exercising for a time dominion over a people they had conquered, who much surpassed them in civilization, -- a horde which was at length annihilated by the Danes, leaving no trace of itself or its influence; for, thinks Mr. Coote, all that we have called Anglo-Saxon, in blood, tongue, or institutions, ought to be ascribed to a different stock, and has received the name only through mistake. — While at the two extremes of the subject embarrassments thus abound, certain intermediate periods are scarcely more free. In the English colonization of America, for instance, the extent to which the new country followed the precedents of the old is not a matter upon which all are agreed. The 6 new historical school," of which E. A. Freeman may be regarded as the founder, and of which the most characteristic publications in America are the historical and politi