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became the teachers of their conquerors, and were the only men of knowledge dispersed throughout Europe: the episcopal authority afforded a model of legal power and regular jurisdiction, which must have seemed a prodigy of wisdom to the disorderly victors. The synods and councils formed by the clergy afforded the first pattern of elective and representative assemblies, which were adopted by the independent genius of the Germanic race, and which, being preserved for many ages by England, promise in the nineteenth century to spread over a large portion of mankind. The ecclesiastics only had any acquaintance with business; they only could conduct the simplest affairs with regularity and quiet; they were the sole interpreters and ministers of whatever laws were suffered to act, or felt to exist. To these powerful means of influence must be added the inexhaustible credulity of the superstitious barbarians, disposed to yield a far more blind deference than the enquiring Romans had ever paid to their priesthood. A gorgeous worship dazzled nations who scarcely rose above the senses. The pretensions to miraculous power lent the clergy extensive aid, for which they were one day to pay a high price in the general unbelief to which these pretensions gave rise in less docile and acquiescent times. All the other institutions of the empire were worn out.

Christianity, however, altered in its doctrines, was still a yonthful and vigorous establishment; and the power which it speedily exercised in blending the two races by gradually softening the ferocious courage of the Germans, so as to render it capable of union with the reviving spirit of the Roman provincials, afforded an early instance of its efficacy in promoting and securing civilisation. It must be added, that the Christian clergymen of that age surpassed their contemporaries in morality, which never fails in the end to resume some part of its natural authority over the most barbarous and even the most depraved. By these and the like causes the clergy were raised to an extraordinary influence, and had the utmost means in their hands to serve and to injure society. In the beginning the benefits of their power outweighed its evils. It was long mixed and doubtful; had it not been curbed, it would have been at length fatal to the exercise of reason and to the authority of civil government.

The contests of the state with the see of Rome belong to a later period. It is at present only necessary to observe, that to their communion with the patriarchal church, which, from the earliest period had been venerated as the mother of the western churches, the European clergy were indebted for the uniformity of opinion, the occasional infusion of some scanty knowledge, and the unity of means as well as identity of purpose, which converted them into a well disciplined army, whose most distant movements corresponded with and supported each other.'—vol. i. pp. 43, 44.

The secret that the English system of government is the work, not of a day, nor of a century, not of the Saxons or the Normans, but the result of happy accidents, and of the silent operations of ages, was, if not discovered, at least ably expounded, for the first time by Fox and Burke. Their fine wisdom may be seen guiding the reflections of Sir James Mackintosh on many points of our history; on none more effectually than those which relate to the early stages of the infancy of our constitution.

• The antiquarians of the seventeenth century investigated the state of our ancient constitution industriously, and often learnedly, but aided by little critical estimate of authorities, and guided by no philosophical spirit. The greater number of these praiseworthy collectors, who began their labours at the period of the contest carried on in that century between the house of Stuart and the people of England, adapted their representation of our ancient laws to the part which they took in the momentous controversy of their own age. The contest was decided by the Revolution of 1688, but the mistaken opinions of the contending parties survived the determination. In two fundamental errors only did the Whig and the Tory antiquaries concur. They both held that the Saxon government was a well-ordered system, and that the right of the people to liberty depended on the enjoyment of it by their forefathers. Both treated the terms which denote political and legal institutions, as retaining an unalterable signification through all the changes of six hundred years; and hence both were led to believe that the same laws and government which they saw around them during the period of their controversy, from the birth of Bacon to the death of Newton, could have existed in the time of the first Saxon freebooters. The Tories represented the Saxon kings not the less as absolute monarchs, because they acted by the advice of men of sense and weight chosen by themselves ; and these writers treated all the privileges of the people as either usurpations or concessions, chiefly obtained from weak princes: The Whigs, with no less deviation from truth, endeavoured to prove that the modern constitution of king, lords, and commons, subsisted in the earliest times, and was then more pure and flourishing than in any succeeding age. No one at that time was taught, by a wide survey of society, that governments are not framed after a model, but that all their parts and powers grow out of occasional acts, prompted by some urgent expediency; or some private interest, which in the course of time coalesce and harden into usage; and that this bundle of usage is the object of respect and the guide of conduct, long before it is embodied, defined, and enforced in written laws. Government may be, in some degree, reduced to system, but it cannot flow from it. It is not like a machine, or a building, which may be constructed entirely, and according to a previous plan, by the art and labour of man. It is better illustrated by comparison with vegetables or even animals, which may be, in a very high degree, improved by skill and care, which may be grievously injured by neglect or destroyed by violence, but which cannot be produced by human contrivance. A government can, indeed, be no more than a mere draught or scheme of rule, when it is not composed of habits of obedience on the part of the people, and of an habitual exercise of certain portions of authority by the individuals or bodies who constitute the sovereign power. These habits, like all others, can only be formed by repeated acts; they cannot be suddenly infused by the lawgiver, nor can they immediately follow the most perfect conviction of their propriety: Many causes having more power over the human mind than written law, it is extremely difficult, from the mere perusal of a written scheme of government, to foretel what it will prove in action. There may be governments so bad that it is justifiable to destroy them, and to trust to the probability that a better government will grow in their stead. But as the rise of a worse is also possible, so terrible a peril is never to be incurred except in the case of a tyranny which it is impossible to reform. be necessary to burn a forest containing much useful timber, but giving

It may

VOL. XIV.

20

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shelter to beasts of prey, who are formidable to an infant colony in its neighbourhood, and of too vast an extent to be gradually and safely thinned by their inadequate labour. It is fit, however, they should be apprised, before they take an irreparable step, how little it is possible to foresee whether the earth, stripped of its vegetation, shall become an unprofitable desert or a pestilential marsh.

If these be truths applicable to all men, they are more obviously evident in the case of barbarians, where it would be peculiarly absurd to expect a lawgiver of foresight enough to provide for all emergencies, or a people so reasonable as to forego all their most inveterate habits of thinking, of feeling, and of acting, for the sake of making a fair experiment on a new system of laws and government.

"The Saxon chiefs, who were called kings,* originally acquired power by the same natural causes which have gradually, and every where, raised a few men above their fellows. They were, doubtless, more experienced, more skilful, more brave, more beautiful than those who followed them. Their children might derive some superiority from the example and instruction of the parents, and some parts of the respect which they commanded might overflow on their more distant progeny. The Anglo-Saxon kings were regarded as the descendants of Odin,--the offspring of the gods;t and when, after their conversion, this pedigree ceased to be sacred, it continued to be illustrious. The extinction of all the Odinian race, except in Wessex, somewhat contributed to the greatness of the house of Cedric ; and the total absence of this pretension may have, in some degree, conduced to the feeble resistance opposed to the Normans by Harold. A king was powerful in war by the lustre of arms, and the obvious necessity of obedience. His influence in peace fluctuated with his personal character. In the progress

usage

his power became more fixed and more limited. But

every

fact from which this usage sprung, nust have been prior to law, of which it is more the office to record than to bestow such powers. It would be very unreasonable to suppose that the northern Germans who had conquered England, had so far changed their characteristic

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* Adelung, the excellent German lexicographer, approves of the derivation of this word in its small variations from konnen to be “able," which corresponds to our verb "can.” It originates in power or command. He mentions two other derivations aš ingenious : one from kind, a child, with ing or ig, a patronymic termination, meaning a child of the royal family, to whom the choice was limited; another from hund or chund, which in some old dialects is used for a hundred, which would derive the Teutonic king from the centeni or hundredors mentioned by Tacitus as chosen in each pagus or gau. The first seems to be the most natural and satisfactory etymology. Ihre, the Swedish glossarist, supposes the root of cun, as well as of all the rest, to be kennen," to know, the earliest source of authority. According to his account, there were kings in the smallest subdivisions of the Scandinavian territory. I wish to be understood when I speak of the derivation, as merely expressing my opinion, that two or more words are of the same family, without deciding which of them was most early used.?

+Dis Geniti.

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habits from the age of Tacitus, that the victors became slaves, and that their generals were converted into tyrants. It is, accordingly, certain that all these princes governed with the advice and consent of national assemblies, of which constituent parts it is difficult to determine with certainty, but which may be safely pronounced to be of an irregularly popular composition.* This assembly was called Witenagemote, a meeting of wise or knowing men. It is acknowledged that it contained the prelates, earls, and many thanes, the principal proprietors of the kingdom. Its consent is recited in the preambles of the Saxon laws, as necessary to their validity; indeed, the repetition of the same terms for centuries, as descriptive of its members, is a proof of the stability and legality of their power. The authority of a barbarous chief needs the support of inferior chiefs, and of their influence over the multitude; for without it, laws and legal commands would be more likely to be scorned than executed. Undoubtedly, there is on trace among the Anglo-Saxons either of representative commoners, or of a peerage like the modern. Not only the prelates and aldermen, or earls, but a great, though unascertainable, part of the thanes, the inférior nobility, or, in modern language, the gentry, were members of the witenagemote. A freeman, not noble, was raised to the rank of a thane by acquiring a certain portion of land, by making three voyages at sea, or by receiving holy orders. Now, if all considerable holders of land (the only wealth then known), had a right to sit in this assembly, and if all freemen might become members of this open aristocracy, by various and easy means, the association of such a body with the king in making laws, and their extensive share in the disposal of the crown itself, sufficiently justify us in affirming that the Anglo-Saxons possessed the rudiments of a free and popular government. It is true, that all who had seats by ancient use, did not, in later times, continue to attend. After the subordination of the other kingdoms to Wessex, and the rise of a single witеnagemote for the whole country, it was scarcely possible for the poor, or the distant, to be present. As the privilege had been conferred by no law, disuse gradually abrogated what usage had established. The preambles of the laws speak of the infinite number of the liegement who attended, as only applauding the measures of the assembly. But this applause was neither so unimportant to the success of the measures, nor so precisely distinguished from a share in legislation, as those who read history with a modern eye might imagine. It appears that under Athelstan, expedients were resorted to, to obtain a consent to the law from great bodies of the people in their districts, which their numbers rendered impossible in a national assembly. That monarch appears to have sent commissioners to hold shire gemotes or county meetings, where they proclaimed the laws made by the king and his counsellors, which being acknowledged and sworn to at these folkmotes, became, by their assent, completely binding on the whole nation. It must never be forgotten, in considering these subjects, that only acts of power against

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* The uniform language of the laws and chronicles supersedes the necessity of any citation of authority.'

+ •“ Infinita fidelium multitudo :" “ liegemen to the Dane," Shakspeare; who, with the sanction of Spencer, in prose as well as verse, may warrant the revival of this convenient word.'

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law are properly usurpations. Acts of power before law cannot be called by the name of usurpations, without representing the prerogatives of kings, the privileges of parliaments, and the rights of the people, alike as usurpations, which would strip the term of all meaning. Wherever there is a doubt concerning the extent of the powers exercised by these great assemblies, we must throw into their scale the weighty consideration, that the king, instead of fear or jealousy of them, felt a constant desire to strengthen every important act of his government by their concurrence.' -vol. i.

PP

71-76. Sir James shews very successfully, that if the Saxon Witenagemote was not in every respect the model, it was certainly the origin of our Parliament. The essential point of difference between the two institutions is, that the ancient assembly, though it consisted of several orders, sat together, and did not comprehend representatives of the commons, under that name. What seems, however, remarkably striking is this, that it comprised members who were of a rank in the county similar to that of many of our present knights of the shire. We shall see by and by the able manner in which the author extricates from a cloud of conjectures, the natural and obviously true history of our representative system. But we cannot quit the eloquent pages in which the author reviews the annals of the Anglo-Saxons, without dwelling a moment on those which are dedicated to their language.

From the Anglo-Saxons we derive the names of the most ancient officers among us; of the greater part of the divisions of the kingdom, and of almost all our towns and villages. From them also we derive our language; of which the structure, and a majority of its words, much greater than those who have not thought on the subject would at first easily believe, are Saxon. Of sixty-nine words which make up the Lord's

Prayer, there are only five not Saxon ;-the best example of the natural bent of our language, and of the words apt to be chosen by those who speak and write it without design. Of eighty-one words in the soliloquy of Hamlet, thirteen only are of Latin origin. Even in a passage of ninety words in Milton, whose diction is more learned than that of any other poet, there are only sixteen Latin words. In four verses of the authorised version of Genesis, which contain about a hundred and thirty-words, there are no more than five Latin. In seventy nine words of Addison, whose perfect taste preserved him from a pedantic or constrained preference for any portion of the language, we find only fifteen Latin. In later times the language was rebelled against the bad taste of those otherwise vigorous writers, who, instead of ennobling their style like Milton, by the position and combination of words, have tried to raise it by unusual and far-fetched expressions. Dr. Johnson himself, from whose corruptions English style is only recovering, in eighty-seven words of his fine paralles between Dryden and Pope, has found means to introduce no more than twenty-one of Latin derivation.* The language of familiar intercourse, the terms of

* The examples are collected, and the materials for calculation prepared, in Turner ii., App. i. 1828.

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