Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

a true picture of the state of the kingdom. The c H A P. laws had been so feebly executed, even during XVIĮ. the long, active, and vigilant reign of Edward III, 7399.. that no subject could trust to their protection. Men openly associated themselves, under the patronage of fome great baron, for their mutual defence, They wore public badges, by which their confederacy was distinguished. They supported each other in all quarrels, iniquities, extortions, murders, robberies, and other crimes, Their chief was more their sovereign than the king himself; and their own band was more connected with them than their country. Hence the perpetual turbulence, disorders, factions, and civil wars of those times: Hence the small regard paid to a character or the opinion of the public: Hence the large discretionary prerogatives of the crown, and the danger which might have ensued from the too great limitation of them. If the king had possessed no arbitrary powers, while all the nobles assumed and exercised them, there must have ensued an absolute anarchy in the state.

ONE great mischief , attending these confederacies, was the extorting from the king pardons for the most enormous crimes. The parliament often endeavoured, in the last reign, to deprive the prince of this prerogative; but, in the present, they were content with an abridgment of it. · They enacted, that no pardon for rapes or for murder from malice prepense should be valid, unless the crime were particularly specified in it tom,

1399.

CILA P. There were also some other circumstances requirXVII. ed for pailing any pardon of this kind: An ex

cellent law; but ill observed, like most laws that thwart the manners of the people, and the prevailing customs of the times.

It is easy to observe, from these voluntary associations among the people, that the whole force of the feudal system was in a manner dirfolved, and that the English had nearly returned in that particular to the same situation, in which they stood before the Norman conquest. It was indeed impossible, that that system could long subsist under the perpetual revolutions, to which landed property is every where subject. When the great feudal baronies were first erected, the lord lived in opulence in the midst of his vassals : He was in a situation to protect and cherish and defend them: The quality of patron naturally united itself to that of fuperior: And these two principles of authority mutually supported each other. But when, by the various divisions and mixtures of property, a man's superior came to live at a distance from him, and could no longer give him shelter or countenance; the tie gradually became more fictitious than real: New connexions from vicinity or other causes were formed: Protection was fought by voluntary services and attachment: The appearance of valor, spirit, abilities in any great man extended his interest very far: And if the sovereign were deficient in these qualities, he was no less, if not more exposed to the usurpations of the aristo.

cracy, than even during the vigor of the feudal C HA P. fysiem.

XVII, The greatest novelty jotroduced into the civil 1369. government during this reign was the creation of peers by patent. Lord Beauchamp of Holt was the first peer, that was advanced to the house of lords in this manner. The practice of levying benevolences is also first mentioned in the present reign.

This prince lived in a more magnificent manner than perhaps any of his predecessors or successors. His household conlisted of 10,000 persons: He had 300 in his kitchen; and all the other offices were furnished in proportions. It must be remarked, that his enormous train had tables fupplied them at the king's expence, according to the mode of that age. Such prodigality was probibly the source of many exactions, by purveyors, and was one chief reason of the public discontents.

108. Harding : This poet fays, that he speaks from the authority of a clerk of the green cloth.

TO THE THIRD VOLUME.

NOTE [A], p. 28.

YMER ; vol. ii. P. 2:6. 845. There cannot be the lealt question, that the homage usually paid by the kings of Scotland was not for their crown, but for some other territory. The only question remains , what that territory was? It was not always fur the earldom of Huntingdon, nor the honor of Penryth ; because we find it sometimes done at a time when these poflellions were not in the hands of the kings of Scotland. It is probable, that the homage was performed in general terms without any particular specification of territory ; and this inaccuracy had proceeded either from fome dispute between the two kings about the territory and some opposite claims , which were compromised by the general homage, or from the fimplicity of the age, which employed few words in every transaction. To prove this we need but look into the letter of king Richard, where he resigns the homage of Scotland, reserving the usual homage. His words are, Sepedićtus W. Rex ligius homo nofter deveniat de omnibus terris de quibus antecessores fui antecessorum noftrorum ligii homines fuerunt , et nobis utque baredibus noftris fidelitatem jurarunt. Rymer, vol. i. p. 65. These general terms were probably copied from the usual form of the homage itself.

Ic is no proof that the kings of Scotland possessed no Jands or baronies in England, because we cannot find them in the imperfect histories and records of that age. For instance, it clearly appears from another passage of this very letter of Richard, that the Scottish king held lands both in the county of Huntingdon and elsewhere in

« ZurückWeiter »