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ENGLISH CONSTITUTION, RESTORED BY ALFRED.
of those of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. But to look for the origin of the English constitution among the ancient Britons would be without foundation, though it is not impossible but their forms of government might in some respect be alike. The laws and customs, therefore, introduced into Great Britain by the AngloSaxons, are to be considered as composed of the laws their ancestors brought into Germany, and of those they found among the ancient Germans.
The Saxons had no kings in Germany when they sent their first troops to the assistance of the Britons under the conduct of Hengist. Their territories were divided into twelve provinces, over each of which a head or governor was appointed by the assembly-general of the nation, wherein the supreme power was lodged. This assembly was called Wittena-Gemot, that is to say, the assembly of the wise men, and also the Mycel Synod, that is, the great assembly. Besides the governors of the provinces, there were others also set over the cities and boroughs.
Though the title of king was not in use among the Saxons, it was, however, assumed by Hengist as soon as he was in possession of Kent. Indeed it would have been difficult for him to have found any other so proper to express his sovereignty over that province. It is true, the titles of duke and earl, or their equivalents, Heretogh and Ealdorman, were not then unknown; but they were not yet used to signify sovereigns. It was not till long after that certain dukes and earls being invested with sovereign power, these titles were made use of to denote the supreme authority. The other Saxon leaders who settled in Great Britain after Hengist, followed his example in assuming the title of king. Thus, whereas in Germany the Saxon territories were divided into twelve governments, their conquests in England were parted into seven kingdoms; but with this difference, that in Germany each governor depended on the assembly-general of the nation, whereas in England each king was sovereign in his petty kingdom. However, this did not exempt him from all dependence on the Wittena-Gemot of his own state, which, in conjunction with him, regulated all important affairs. Moreover, by mutual consent there was established a general assembly of the whole seven kingdoms, where matters relating to all in common were settled. Hence this form of government, which considered the seven kingdoms as united in one body,
was called the Heptarchy, that is, the government of seven."
And again, page 151:-“ Among the Anglo-Saxons the lords had not the power of life and death over their slaves; nay, the laws provided they should not cripple or maim them without incurring a penalty. They who made such laws imitated, in some measure, the law of God without knowing it,
And again :—"I have already observed, in the life of Alfred the Great, that this prince divided England into shires, the shires into trythings, laths, or wapentakes; these into hundreds, and the hundreds into tythings. However, it must not be imagined that in this division he introduced something entirely new to the English. He only settled the bounds of the former divisions, making some alterations for convenience sake. At least, as to the division of the kingdom into shires, it is cer. tain he only proportioned it in a better manner than before. This is evident from there being earls of Somersetshire and Devonshire in the reign of Ethelwulph, as Asser relates, who lived about that time; but Alfred uniting all England into one monarchy, made a more exact and extensive division of his dominions. The shires contained a whole province subject to the jurisdiction of an earl or count, and were, therefore, called counties. Some of these shires being divided into trythings, others into laths, and others into wapentakes, each of these divisions, which were the same thing under different names, consisted of three or four hundreds of families, and each hundred was subdivided into tythings. The courts of justice were formed with respect to these several divi. sions, that is, there was a court for each tything, hundred, &c., to the end justice might be administered with less charge, greater despatch, and more exactness.
“ If any person accused of a crime refused to appear, the other nine sureties were bound to see him forthcoming to justice. If he ran away, he was not suf. fered to settle in any other town, borough, or village, because no one could change habitation without a testimonial from his tything, for want of which, they that received him were punished. By the laws of King Edward, the tything had thirty days allowed them to search for the crimi. nal. If he was not to be found, the tything-man, taking two of his own, and nine of the three next tythings, these twelve purged themselves by oath of the offence and flight of the malefactor. If they re
HAD ITS ORIGIN IN THE LAW OF MOSES.
fused to swear, the tything the offender belonged to was obliged to make satisfaction in his stead."
When we shall in truth obey the command, delivered in the end of the Old Testament, “ Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb, for all Israel ; the statutes and judgments;" when this remembrance truly takes place, and the connection of these with the English constitution, is traced according as the evidence leads, the advantage of obeying the command will be felt ; and the value of the training given to Israel, by their God, will become apparent ; and it shall be acknowledged, that He hath both spoken truth, and wrought wondrously with his people from the beginning; and then shall come forth in power the ministry of Elijah, before the great and terrible day of the Lord, Mai. iv. 4, 5.
From the testimony of a French writer, Rapin, it has now been shown that Britain changed its population, and, of course, its institutions and language, upon the settlement here of the Saxons, Angles, and Jutes; who formed themselves into a constitutional government, called the Heptarchy, somewhat analogous to that of their twelve provinces on the Continent, and like that of the twelve tribes of Israel. The most central position was occupied by the Angles; who ultimately gave their name to the whole, as also they have left the least trace of their settlement on the Continent: correspondent to the idea that the Angles had mainly transported themselves to Britain, to the greater part of which they gave name, whilst they lost all name on the Continent. I have noticed the distinguished character of those parts of England mainly settled by them, and the urgent occasion of their spread into other parts, from this central position in the island, into which they were first introduced under twelve chiefs.
They were, like Joseph, greatly afflicted in the commencement of their career ; but have subsequently, to a
remarkable extent, fulfilled the destiny of Ephraim, the younger son of Joseph, and of whom was to come the promised fulness of nations.
Rapin has witnessed that the Engglish constitution (bearing the impress of the Mosaic institutions) was not produced in England; hut was possessed by the English previous to their coming hither. He also notices that their laws were as if an imitation of the law of God, without their knowing it. He has witnessed that Alfred did not originate, but merely reform and restore the English constitution, which had been thrown into confusion by the incursions of the Danes. These seemed, indeed, to have fulfilled the prophecy of Jacob respecting Dan:
“ Dan shall be a serpent by the way,
The white horse, then the ensign of those who were afterwards to become the Lord's messengers to the nations, was, indeed, impeded in his course for a tune. But all has been overruled for good. Soon may they prove themselves worthy the interpretation Gregory gave of their name, Angles -- Angels, messengers : - The swift messengers of the Lord—carrying forth, in divine power, his message unto all the nations, may they, indeed, speedily be! He will hasten his word to perform it.
Upon showing his word unto Jacob, His statutes and judgments to Israel, it was to be discovered that he hath not dealt so with any nation, as he had promised to do with the people he had chosen for Himself :that He might be peculiarly the Lord their God,—the God of Israel: But we have found that, so far as we have come, He hath dealt with the English nation as He had promised to deal with Israel, so that we may well exclaim, as in Is. lxiii., "I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord,—the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He hath bestowed on
EVEN THEIR ENEMIES BEING JUDGES,
them, according to bis mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses. For He said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so He was their Saviour."
Men did not recognize them as being the children of promise, although they could not hut see that the promises were fulfilled in them: but their Father recognized them as being Ammi,---my people. And, amidst all their failings, he recognized in them that integrity and trustworthiness for which they are so distinguished among the nations;—that which our Lord calls
an honest and good heart," in which his word might with advantage be sown. There are exceptions, but they have above any nation earned for themselves the character of children that will not lie: so He was their Saviour. He hath indeed been their Saviour, both temporally and spiritually. All changes He hath overruled for their good. The wonderful manner in which they withstood, as it were,
the world, at the commencement of this century: and in which they have been enriching it with their wise institutions and useful inventions more and more ever since, is most worthy of note; and all this they are not to ascribe to chance, but to the goodness of the God of their fathers, who had promised so to defend them, and so to cause them to be for blessing unto all the nations of the earth. In their case are manifested not the supposed freaks of blind fortune, but the good providence of the God of Israel.
That this people have been dealt wondrously with, is acknowledged by those who have had the best opportunity of judging; by those who have studied their history, in comparison with that of other nations. The Abbe Milot, Royal Professor of History in the university of Parma; a Frenchman, and member of the Church of Rome, and who had previously written a work on the History of France, wrote also “ Elements of the History of England," from the preface to which I shall now quote. It is to be
premised, that this author wrote previously to the glory of the Georgian era, since which hath been the greatest bursting forth of power from this people on all hands. The Abbe unwittingly shows that in them the prophecy has been fulfilled, that they should be "a people terrible from their beginning;" and we ourselves have seen that this has been "hitherto." He thus proceeds:
"No modern history, it must be confessed, presents to our view so great a number of striking pictures as that of England. We see here a people, free, warlike, unconquerable, and a long time ferocious, preserve the same characteristic qualities through a successive train of bloody revolutions. Depressed by the arms and by the despotism of the ambitious William, duke of Normandy ; gloriously governed by Henry the Second, the most powerful monarchy of Europe, though embroiled with the Church. They groaned afterwards under the tyranny of king John; and this very tyranny pró. cured them the Great Charter, the eternal basis of their freedom. The English then gave their crown to France, drove out the French prince they had called to the throne, and became the terror of the monarchy of Clovis, which seemed on the point of submitting to the yoke. But France, at length, after an interval of calamity and madness, displayed its resources, recovered its ancient glory, inseparable from the cause of its kings; triumphed over a haughty enemy, whose victories were the fruit of our fatal dissensions; and to revenge itself, had only occasion to leave it a prey to dissensions still more cruel. Two rival, yet kindred, houses, impelled to arms by rage and ambition, snatched from each other's brows a diadem drenched in blood; princes assassinated princes ; the people massacred each other for the choice of a master, and England now became a theatre of anarchy and carnage.
Under the Tudors we see tranquillity restored, and the national strength augmented ; but liberty destroyed. A prince, violent and capricious, habituates to the chains of despotism this proud and restless nation. He domineers arbitrarily over religion itself; and Rome, for having opposed him, loses at one blow a kingdom which had ever been one of its most fruitful sources of services and of riches. Mary attempts, in vain, to restore, by severe punishments, a worship, which, having truth for its basis, (?) ought to subdue minds
THIS PEOPLE HAVE BEEN WONDROUSLY DEALT WITH.
by no arms but those of persuasion. She succeeds only in making inconstant hypocrites, or inflexible fanatics ; she renders for ever detestable, herself, and the faith she wishes to establish. At length Elizabeth reigns. Her genius enchains fortune, fertilizes the earth, animates all the arts, opens to her people the immense career of commerce, and fixes, in some degree, in the ocean the foundations of the English dominion. Continually surrounded by enemies, either foreign or domestic, she defeats conspiracies by her prudence;
and triumphs by her courage over the forces of Philip the Second; happy, if she had known how to conquer her own heart, and spare a rival whose blood alone tarnishes her memory! But how impenetrable are the decrees of Heaven! The son of Mary Stuart succeeds to Elizabeth; the scaffold on which his mother received the stroke of death, serves him as a step to mount the throne of England, from whence his son is destined to be precipitated, to expire on a scaffold also. It is at this period we behold multiplying rapidly before our eyes, those celebrated scenes of which the universe furnishes no examples: an absurd fanaticism forming profound systems of policy, at the same time that it signalizes itself by prodigies of folly and extravagance: an enlightened enthusiast, a great general and statesman, opening to himself, under the mask of piety, the road to the supreme power: subjects carrying on judicially the trial of a virtuous monarch, and causing him to be publicly beheaded as a rebel: the hypocritical author of this attempt reigning with as much glory as power; rendering himself the arbiter of crowns, and enjoying, even to the tomb, the fruits of his tyranny : the parliament, the slave of the Tudors, the tyrant of the Stuarts, the accomplice and dupe of Cromwell, exercising the noblest right which men can possess over their fellow-creatures, that of making laws, and maintaining their execution : at length, from this chaos of horrors, comes forth a form of government which excites the admiration of all Europe. A sudden revolution again changes the face of affairs. The lawful heir is acknowledged; his stormy reign develops the sentiments of patriotism; the imprudence of his successor alarms the national spirit of liberty ; his subjects revolt, they call in a deliverer ; the stadtholder of Holland dethrones, without bloodshed, his timid and irresolute father-in-law; the usurpation is established by the sanction of the laws; but those very laws impose conditions on the prince, and whilst he
holds the balance of Europe, his will is almost without force in England. After him a woman presides over the destiny of nations, makes France tremble, humbles Lewis the Fourteenth, and covers herself with immortal glory, by giving him peace, in spite of the clamours of an ambitious cabal. Anne, with less talents, and more virtues, than Elizabeth, has merited one of the first places amongst great monarchs. The sceptre passes again into foreign hands ; complicated interests embarrass the government; and the British constitution seems declining from its original principles, till some favourable conjuncture shall arrive, which may restore it to its pristine vigour.
"To this very imperfect summary of the principal epochas, let us add the detail of those laws, successively established, to form a rampart to liberty, and lay the foundation of public order ; the progress of letters and of sciences, so closely connected with the happiness and glory of states; the singularities of the English genius, profound, contemplative, yet capable of every extreme; the interesting picture of parliamentary debates, fruitful in scenes, the variety and spirit of which equally strike us. The reader will easly conceive that this history is unparalleled in its kind. In other countries, princes, nobles, fill the entire theatre; here, men, citizens, act a part which is infinitely more interesting to man.
"Since the publication of Rymer's collection, several able writers have availed themselves of the inestimable materials which that work supplies. Among these, Rapin de Thoyras, a French author, was the first who distinguished himself in this career. As an historian, judicious, exact, methodical, he exhausts his subject, he descends to the minutest particulars; but growing tedious by being too diffuse, he soon overburdens the imagination, at the expense
of what he ought to engrave on the memory. A more essential reproach which he deserves, is that of betraying a prejudice against his own country (which by the severities of Lewis the Fourteenth had incurred the resentment of the Protestants) and of favouring the sect of the Puritans, those dangerous enthusiasts, the system of whose religion tends only to render men savage; and their system of independence to make them factious and rebellious."
The folly of these latter remarks of the Abbe has been abundantly proved, by the contrast of the case of England to that of the French Revolution.
CONDITION OF ISRAEL BEFORE THE LATTER RAIN.
Rapin, the other French writer, from whom I chiefly quote in this Lecture, is here admitted to he an unexceptionable witness, except as to two particulars : the first is, that Rapin is too minute, which is an excellent fault in such an inquiry as that in which we are engaged: where the minuteness of truth, rather than the generalities of philosophy, or the embellishment of poetry, is required. The second fault here noted against him is his favour for Puritanism, which the Abbe insinuates has a tendency to render men savage; whereas, unfortunately for the Abbe's politic theory on the subject, it has always led to the best advantages of civilization; and to the fullest development of the powers of man, and of those of the inferior creation under his sway. The portion of English history which has more particularly come under our notice, is not, however, very liable to the last objection of the Abbe, as it belongs to a period long anterior to the Reformation, and when the controversies connected therewith had not arisen, to give that vigorous exercise to the human mind, which has resulted in those splendid achievements in science and in art, that have since distinguished Europe.
Those who deny that Protestantism and freedom of discussion, as connected therewith, have a tendency to invigorate and elevate the human mind, have, it may be observed, the greater need of our theory, to account for the manifest superiority of the
Protestant nations over those that have retained all the pretended advantages of the Papacy: which itself might have perished from the earth had it not been for the vigorous interference of England, whereby their ghostly father was protected as to his supposed rights; and also the throne restored to "his Most Christian Majesty" the King of France. How is it that England has been enabled to take such a lead among the nations, and to become such an emulated example of literary, commercial, manufacturing, political, and even military success— such an admired type of free institutions—if there be not something either in their early or later training to account for this? Or if, notwithstanding all the thunders of the Vatican, there are not under this people“ the everlasting arms?" Or if there be not with them the favour of Him who hath said to the outcast house of Israel, "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shall condemn?"
Before the great promised outpouring of the Spirit in the latter day, and of which outpouring the former rain, in the days of the apostles, was an assured pledge, it was predicted that the Lord would be known as having dealt both kindly and wondrously with Israel; that He would be known as being in the midst of them for blessing, and around them for a sure defence. Thus it is written, Joel, ch. ii. 26—28:
“And ye shall eat in plenty,
And none else,