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in Zealand, but the author of Knytlingasaga says it was at Viborg in Jutland. “ The two brothers, Knut and Harald, went to Jutland, for there the king was to be elected at Viborg-thing; there was a great multitude assembled.” The claims of Harald finally prevailed. He was duly proclaimed king, and made a progress through the provinces, where his election was confirmed, and he received the homage of the people in the different“ lands-thing.” His competitor Knut was appeased by being created “ Jarl of Zealand," with a commission to guard the island from the ravages of the Pagan sea-rovers, and by a solemn promise ratified by the oaths of all the chieftains (höfdingjar) that he should be king after his brother Harald, in case he survived him.
The kingdom continued to be distracted for more than a century after this period by bloody contentions for a crown which was partly elective and partly hereditary, the choice being always confined to the descendants of Svend Estrithson, with a general preference (though not without exceptions) of the oldest surviving brother of the late king over his sons. Thus, when king Erik Ejegod set out on his pilgrimage to the Holy Land (1103), he declared in a public “ Thing" that his son Erik should accompany him, his son Harald should reinain to defend the country, and upon his third son Knut he conferred the Duchy of Sleswig, adding, that “every body knows that my brother Nikolas is next to the royal dignity after my decease according to law.” The king* having died at Cyprus, Nikolas succeeded, and after having treacherously put to death his nephew Knut, and provoked the national hatred by his tyranny, was solemnly declared to have forfeited the crown by his perjuries and other crimes. Erik, the eldest son of Erik Ejegod, was chosen in his place, and he again was followed by another Erik, the grandson of Erik Ejegod, surnamed Lamm (the Lamb), from the gentleness of his character and the mildness of his rule. He abdicated the throne and retired into a monastery in 1147. On the termination of his pacific, but feeble and inglorious reign, the kingdom was again convulsed by the contentions growing out of the choice of a successor from among the surviving descendants of Svend Estrithson. After a series of civil wars and treacherous murders, Valdemar I. son of Knut Duke of Sleswig, and grandson of King Erik Ejegod, supplanted all his rivals, and the friend of Absalon became sole king of Denmark in 1157. He died in 1182, “ lamented,” says the Knytlingasuga “ by all Denmark, over which he had reigned six and twenty years, and fought more than eight and twenty battles in the heathen land, and warred
• Knytlingasaga, kap. 79.
against the Pagans, to the glory of God's church, so long as he lived." (kap. 127.)
The introduction of tithes for the support of the clergy in Denmark, had been constantly resisted by the people ever since the establishment of Roman Christianity as the national religion. The attempt to enforce their exaction had cost Knut V. his life, A grateful clergy had rewarded his devotion to their interests with the crown of martyrdom, but the reluctance of the peasantry, especially in Zealand and Scania, to submit to the payment of this new tribute was not subdued. Archbishop Absalon persuaded Valdemar I. to enforce the collection of tithes in the province of Scania by force of arms. The natural repugnance of the king to shed the blood of his subjects in any case was overcome in this instance, which he was taught to consider not only as a culpable disobedience to his royal authority, but an impious resistance to the will of heaven, as interpreted by its ministers on earth. Absalon himself may have been, to a certain degree, influenced by a conscientious conviction of the justice of the cause he supported. But he acted in the general spirit of the sacerdotal and feudal aristocracy of his time; and it seems probable that he was mainly influenced by the interests of the order in which he was born, and of which he had become the head. Until the epoch of the Valdemars, the Danish peasant came armed into the national assembly of the “ Lands-thing," and exercised his political rights with as much freedom as any noble in the land. The aristocracy of the heroic or Pagan age was patriarchal in its character. The Jarls, Hærsers, Höfdingjar, and other magnates and chieftains, were the leaders of the people in war, and exercised over them a certain degree of political influence in time of peace. They were the pontiffs of religion, but not a separate order of priesthood. Their relation to the mass of the people was not that of lord and vassal, but resembled rather the connection of patron and client; if indeed its tie was so strong as that which bound the Roman plebeian to his patrician protector. This independent bearing of the commons offended the growing pride of the bigher orders, and the cultivators of the soil gradually sunk under the increasing power and influence of the feudal aristocracy and the Romish hierarchy. The free Danish peasant became a feudal serf, chained to the soil on which he grew, in which abject condition he remained during the middle ages, and never emerged from it until the last year of the eighteenth century.
The codes of law supposed to have been published by Valdemar I. for Scania and Zealand, have been recently shown to be mere private re-compilations of the ancient customary law of those
provinces, made without the sanction of any public authority. The fame of Valdemar II., as a legislator, rests on a more solid foundation. His views probably extended to the formation of a general code for the whole kingdom; but they were overruled by the invincible attachment of the people of Scania and Zealand to their local customs and usages.
Beside these customary or unwritten laws, the retainers of the king's court, or witherlagamenn, had their own peculiar code, established in the time of Canute the Great, by which they were judged in the court of the palace by a jury of their fellows. The royal guilds, or fraternities, were also privileged to be judged by their own by-laws. The cities were already endowed with municipal privileges, one of the principal of which was to be entirely exempt from the jurisdiction of the king's courts. The clergy had also asserted a complete exemption from the secular jurisdiction. The Roman civil law had been introduced into Denmark by the ecclesiastics and others who had studied at Paris and Bologna, and the confusion produced by the multitude of local customs and royal ordinances was thus increased by the introduction of another and a foreign code. To remedy the evils flowing from this confused and contradictory legislation, Valdemar convened at Vordingborg, in 1240, a national assembly of the “ Dannehof,” or general diet, consisting of the princes, prelates, and other great men of the kingdom. Here was promulgated what is called by the Danish jurists the Jutland Law, but which was intended as a uniform code for the whole kingdom. It was received in Zealand and Scania as supplementary to their own provincial customs, which had long before been reduced to a written text: but it prevailed for several centuries in Jutland, Fionia, and the duchy of Sleswig, and though superseded in the former province by the general code of Christian V., it still continues to form a part of the law now subsisting in the duchy of Sleswig.
The Jutland law recognized the old division of the kingdom into small maritime districts for military defence, and for the equipment of naval expeditions beyond sea. Each of these territorial districts, or rather its principal port, was called Styreshavn, and the officer to whom the command of the local force was confided, Styresmand. Every such district was obliged to furnish a barque containing twelve rowers and the steersman, with a manat-arms and archer. These formed what may be called the maritime militia. The vessels of a larger size were built and equipped by the king himself, or furnished by the opulent bishops and other magnates, or by the maritime associations at Roskilde and other ports, to cruise against the Wend pirates. The landholders of the district, possessing lauds of the value of two marcs of silver, were
bound to furnish ove man, and those of the value of a marc of gold eight men, for the equipment, each armed with a helmet, and furnished with thirty-six arrows; still the other freemen were compelled to serve personally in rotation. Freemen capable of bearing arms were permitted to be furnished as substitutes.
The origin of the feudal nobility in Denmark is commonly attributed to a perversion of this institution, intended for the defence of the kingdom. The kings were accustomed to grant permission to such of their magnates or courtiers as they wished to favour, to erect these maritime districts into hereditary fiefs, exempted from the primitive obligation of contributing to the equipment of a naval force. The feudal nobles thus created were called Herremænd. This peculiar privilege was gradually extended to the monasteries and prelates, who, with their vassals, were in like manner exempted from the same obligation. The free peasants, who, like the franklins of England, were originally independent landed proprietors, having an equal voice in the public assembly or "lands-thing" of the province with the first nobles in the land, were thus compelled to seek the protection of these powerful lords, and to become the vassals of some neighbouring “berreinand,” or prelate, or convent. The provincial " lands-thing,” in which the kings were from tiine immemorial elected, and the laws of the kingdom publicly promulgated, gradually superseded by the general national parliament of the Dannehof, Adel-thing, or Herredage: the latter being exclusively composed of the princes, prelates, and other great men of the kingdom. The free peasantry gradually ceased to participate, whilst the burghers had not yet obtained a share, in political power
. The constitution of the state, though irregular, fluctuating, and to a certain degree undefined, like that of all imperfectly civilized communities, was rapidly approaching the form which it ultimately assumed, that of a feudal and sacerdotal oligarchy. The authority of the kings, indeed, in the time of the Valdemars, still continued very considerable, and was augmented by their foreign expeditious and conquests, and by the attempts they made to establish something like a regular hereditary succession to the crown.
Thus Valdemar I., during his own lifetime, caused his son Knut VI. to be solemnly crowned and associated in the government.
Valdemar II. was designated, during the lifetime of his brother, Knut VI. as his successor, and, on the death of the latter, assumed the crown without any formal election. Valdemar II. caused his eldest son, Valdemar III., and on the decease of the latter, his second son, Erik, to be crowned and declared co-regents during his lifetime. The laws newly enacted were promulgated by the king, but the right of the nation to participate in the exercise of legislative
power, was unequivocally acknowleged in the preamble to the Jutland law:
“ No man shall (dare to) judge against (or contrary to) the law, which the king gives (issues) and the country receives (admits); but according to that law, the whole land is to be judged and ruled.
“ The law which the king gives and the country receives, he (the king) must not (cannot) recall nor alter, but with the consent of the country, unless (the king) acts (will act) openly against God.”
The national diet, or parliament, was convened annually at Wyborg, and during the recess of this body the government of the kingdom was administered by the king with the advice of his council (Kongens Raad), composed of the great officers of state and other magnates, without whose consent no important matter could be decided. Justice was administered in all secular affairs by the popular tribunal of the “ lands-thing” for each province, and the “ herreds-thing" for the smaller districts into which the province was divided for that purpose. The cities had their own municipal courts of peculiar jurisdiction, called the “ by-thing,” and no burgher could be impleaded in any other place. The local tribunals of the herreds-thing had jurisdiction of small offences and civil controversies, with an appeal to the lands-thing, which had original cognizance of more heinous crimes, such as murder, maiming, and all other cases where at least half the “ price," or were, for homicide was payable, as a pecuniary satisfaction for the offence. Valdemar had already abolished the ordeal ferri candentis in Scania, and there are no traces in the Jutland code of that mode of procedure, or of trial by battle. The law merely required the complainant to support the accusation by his own oath, and that of his compurgators, or by evident facts manifesting the corpus delicti. This having been done, the trial proceeded before certain jurors called Norvinger, except in the very few cases where the defendant was allowed to wage his law, or purge himself by his own oath, and the testimony of a certain number of compurgators. These jurors were selected from the "thing-mænd,” or freemen of the vicinage qualified to attend the herreds-thing, a majority of whom determined the verdict, and in case of equal division of opinions, other jurors were added from the next adjoining district. Beside these popular juries, there were other inquests held in the district, by the king's bailiffs, assisted by sworn interpreters called Sandemande.
Valdemar's son, Erik, was assassinated at the instigation of his brother Abel, (1250), who caused his own succession to be confirmed according to the ancient custom, which had for some time fallen into disuse, by all the freemen assembled in the different provincial lands-thing. This king held a Dannehof at Rendsburg,