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The History of England, Volume I by David Hume

Part 10 out of 12

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[c]. The prince himself was nothing but a great chieftain, who was
chosen from among the rest on account of his superior valour or
nobility; and who derived his power from the voluntary association or
attachment of the other chieftains.
[FN [c] Tacit. de Mor. Germ.]

When a tribe, governed by these ideas, and actuated by these
principles, subdued a large territory, they found, that though it was
necessary to keep themselves in a military posture, they could neither
remain united in a body, nor take up their quarters in several
garrisons, and that their manners and institutions debarred them from
using these expedients; the obvious ones, which, in a like situation,
would have been employed by a more civilized nation. Their ignorance
in the art of finances, and perhaps the devastations inseparable from
such violent conquests, rendered it impracticable for them to levy
taxes sufficient for the pay of numerous armies; and their repugnance
to subordination, with their attachment to rural pleasures, made the
life of the camp or garrison, if perpetuated during peaceful times,
extremely odious and disgustful to them. They seized, therefore, such
a portion of the conquered lands as appeared necessary; they assigned
a share for supporting the dignity of their prince and government;
they distributed other parts, under the title of fiefs, to the chiefs;
these made a new partition among their retainers: the express
condition of all these grants was, that they might be resumed at
pleasure, and that the possessor, so long as he enjoyed them, should
still remain in readiness to take the field for the defence of the
nation. And though the conquerors immediately separated, in order to
enjoy their new acquisitions, their martial disposition made them
readily fulfil the terms of their engagement: they assembled on the
first alarm; their habitual attachment to the chieftain made them
willingly submit to his command; and thus a regular military force,
though concealed, was always ready to defend, on any emergence, the
interest and honour of the community.

We are not to imagine that all the conquered lands were seized by the
northern conquerors; or that the whole of the land thus seized was
subjected to those military services. This supposition is confuted by
the history of all the nations on the continent. Even the idea given
us of the German manners by the Roman historian may convince us, that
that bold people would never have been content with so precarious a
subsistence, or have fought to procure establishments which were only
to continue during the good pleasure of their sovereign. Though the
northern chieftains accepted of lands, which, being considered as a
kind of military pay, might be resumed at the will of the king or
general; they also took possession of estates, which being hereditary
and independent, enabled them to maintain their native liberty, and
support, without court favour, the honour of their rank and family.

[MN Progress of the feudal law.]
But there is a great difference, in the consequences, between the
distribution of a pecuniary subsistence, and the assignment of lands
burdened with the condition of military service. The delivery of the
former, at the weekly, monthly, or annual terms of payment, still
recalls the idea of a voluntary gratuity from the prince, and reminds
the soldier of the precarious tenure by which he holds his commission.
But the attachment naturally formed with a fixed portion of land
gradually begets the idea of something like property, and makes the
possessor forget his dependent situation, and the condition which was
at first annexed to the grant. It seemed equitable that one who had
cultivated and sowed a field should reap the harvest: hence fiefs,
which were at first entirely precarious, were soon made annual. A man
who had employed his money in building, planting, or other
improvements, expected to reap the fruits of his labour or expense:
hence they were next granted during a term of years. It would be
thought hard to expel a man from his possessions, who had always done
his duty, and performed the conditions on which he originally received
them: hence the chieftains, in a subsequent period, thought themselves
entitled to demand the enjoyment of their feudal lands during life.
It was found that a man would more willingly expose himself in battle,
if assured that his family should inherit his possessions, and should
not be left by his death in want and poverty: hence fiefs were made
hereditary in families, and descended, during one age, to the son,
then to the grandson, next to the brothers, and afterwards to more
distant relations [d]. The idea of property stole in gradually upon
that of military pay; and each century made some sensible addition to
the stability of fiefs and tenures.
[FN [d] Lib. Feud. lib. I. tit. 1.]

In all these successive acquisitions, the chief was supported by his
vassals; who, having originally a strong connexion with him, augmented
by the constant intercourse of good offices, and by the friendship
arising from vicinity and dependence, were inclined to follow their
leader against all his enemies, and voluntarily, in his private
quarrels, paid him the same obedience, to which, by their tenure, they
were bound in foreign wars. While he daily advanced new pretensions
to secure the possession of his superior fief, they expected to find
the same advantage, in acquiring stability to their subordinate ones;
and they zealously opposed the intrusion of a new lord, who would be
inclined, as he was fully entitled, to bestow the possession of their
lands on his own favourites and retainers. Thus the authority of the
sovereign gradually decayed; and each noble, fortified in his own
territory by the attachment of his vassals, became too powerful to be
expelled by an order from the throne; and he secured by law what he
had at first acquired by usurpation.

During this precarious state of the supreme power, a difference would
immediately be experienced between those portions of territory which
were subjected to the feudal tenures, and those which were possessed
by an allodial or free title. Though the latter possessions had at
first been esteemed much preferable, they were soon found, by the
progressive changes introduced into public and private law, to be of
an inferior condition to the former. The possessors of a feudal
territory, united by a regular subordination under one chief, and by
the mutual attachments of the vassals, had the same advantages over
the proprietors of the other, that a disciplined army enjoys over a
dispersed multitude; and were enabled to commit with impunity all
injuries on their defenceless neighbours. Every one, therefore,
hastened to seek that protection which he found so necessary; and each
allodial proprietor, resigning his possessions into the hands of the
king, or of some nobleman respected for power or valour, received them
back with the condition of feudal services [e], which, though a burden
somewhat grievous, brought him ample compensation, by connecting him
with the neighbouring proprietors, and placing him under the
guardianship of a potent chieftain. The decay of the political
government thus necessarily occasioned the extension of the feudal:
the kingdoms of Europe were universally divided into baronies, and
these into inferior fiefs: and the attachment of vassals to their
chief, which was at first an essential part of the German manners, was
still supported by the same causes from which it at first arose; the
necessity of mutual protection, and the continued intercourse between
the head and the members, of benefits and services.
[FN [e] Marculf. Form. 47. apud Lindenbr. p. 1238.]

But there was another circumstance which corroborated these feudal
dependencies, and tended to connect the vassals with their superior
lord by an indissoluble bond of union. The northern conquerors, as
well as the more early Greeks and Romans, embraced a policy which is
unavoidable to all nations that have made slender advances in
refinement: they every where united the civil jurisdiction with the
military power. Law, in its commencement, was not an intricate
science, and was more governed by maxims of equity, which seem
obvious to common sense, than by numerous and subtle principles,
applied to a variety of cases by profound reasonings from analogy. An
officer, though he had passed his life in the field, was able to
determine all legal controversies which could occur within the
district committed to his charge; and his decisions were the most
likely to meet with a prompt and ready obedience, from men who
respected his person, and were accustomed to act under his command.
The profit arising from punishments, which were then chiefly
pecuniary, was another reason for his desiring to retain the judicial
power; and when his fief became hereditary, this authority, which was
essential to it, was also transmitted to his posterity. The counts
and other magistrates, whose power was merely official, were tempted,
in imitation of the feudal lords, whom they resembled in so many
particulars, to render their dignity perpetual and hereditary; and in
the decline of the regal power, they found no difficulty in making
good their pretensions. After this manner, the vast fabric of feudal
subordination became quite solid and comprehensive; it formed every
where an essential part of the political constitution; and the Norman
and other barons, who followed the fortunes of William, were so
accustomed to it that they could scarcely form an idea of any other
species of civil government [f].
[FN [f] The ideas of the feudal government were so rooted, that even
lawyers, in those ages, could not form a notion of any other
Constitution REGNUM (says Bracton, lib. 2. cap. 34.) QUOD EX

The Saxons who conquered England, as they exterminated the ancient
inhabitants, and thought themselves secured by the sea against new
invaders, found it less requisite to maintain themselves in a military
posture: the quantity of land which they annexed to offices seems to
have been of small value; and for that reason continued the longer in
its original situation, and was always possessed during pleasure by
those who were intrusted with the command. These conditions were too
precarious to satisfy the Norman barons, who enjoyed more independent
possessions and jurisdictions in their own country; and William was
obliged, in the new distribution of land, to copy the tenures which
were now become universal on the continent. England of a sudden
became a feudal kingdom [g]; and received all the advantages, and was
exposed to all the inconveniences, incident to that species of civil
[FN [g] Coke, Comm. on Lit. p. 1, 2. ad sect. 1.]

[MN The feudal government of England.]
According to the principles of the feudal law, the king was the
supreme lord of the landed property: all possessors, who enjoyed the
fruits or revenue of any part of it, held those privileges, either
mediately or immediately, of him; and their property was conceived to
be in some degree conditional [h]. The land was still apprehended to
be a species of BENEFICE, which was the original conception of a
feudal property; and the vassal owed, in return for it, stated
services to his baron, as the baron himself did for his land to the
crown. The vassal was obliged to defend his baron in war; and the
baron, at the head of his vassals, was bound to fight in defence of
the king and kingdom. But besides these military services, which were
casual, there were others imposed of a civil nature, which were more
constant and durable.
[FN [h] Somner of Gavelk. p. 109. Smith de Rep. lib. 3. cap. 10.]

The northern nations had no idea that any man, trained up to honour,
and inured to arms, was ever to be governed, without his own consent,
by the absolute will of another; or that the administration of justice
was ever to be exercised by the private opinion of any one magistrate,
without the concurrence of some other persons, whose interest might
induce them to check his arbitrary and iniquitous decisions. The
king, therefore, when he found it necessary to demand any service of
his barons or chief tenants, beyond what was due by their tenures, was
obliged to assemble them in order to obtain their CONSENT: and when it
was necessary to determine any controversy which might arise among the
barons themselves, the question must be discussed in their presence,
and be decided according to their opinion or ADVICE. In these two
circumstances of consent and advice consisted chiefly the civil
services of the ancient barons; and these implied all the considerable
incidents of government. In one view, the barons regarded this
attendance as their principal PRIVILEGE; in another, as a grievous
BURDEN. That no momentous affairs could be transacted without their
consent and advice was in GENERAL esteemed the great security of their
possessions and dignities: but as they reaped no immediate profit from
their attendance at court, and were exposed to great inconvenience and
charge by an absence from their own estates, every one was glad to
exempt himself from each PARTICULAR exertion of this power; and was
pleased both that the call for that duty should seldom return upon
him, and that others should undergo the burden in his stead. The
king, on the other hand, was usually anxious, for several reasons,
that the assembly of the barons should be full at every stated or
casual meeting: this attendance was the chief badge of their
subordination to his crown, and drew them from that independence which
they were apt to affect in their own castles and manors; and where the
meeting was thin or ill attended, its determinations had less
authority, and commanded not so ready an obedience from the whole

The case was the same with the barons in their courts, as with the
king in the supreme council of the nation. It was requisite to
assemble the vassals, in order to determine by their vote any question
which regarded the barony; and they sat along with the chief in all
trials, whether civil or criminal, which occurred within the limits of
their jurisdiction. They were bound to pay suit and service at the
court of their baron: and as their tenure was military, and
consequently honourable, they were admitted into his society, and
partook of his friendship. Thus, a kingdom was considered only as a
great barony, and a barony as a small kingdom. The barons were peers
to each other in the national council, and, in some degree, companions
to the king: the vassals were peers to each other in the court of
barony, and companions to their baron [i].
[FN [i] Du Cange, Gloss. in verb. PAR Cujac. Commun. in Lib. Feud.
lib. I. tit. p. 18. Spellm. Gloss. in verb.]

But though this resemblance so far took place, the vassals, by the
natural course of things, universally, in the feudal constitutions,
fell into a greater subordination under the baron, than the baron
himself under his sovereign; and these governments had a necessary
and infallible tendency to augment the power of the nobles. The great
chief, residing in his country-seat, which he was commonly allowed to
fortify, lost, in a great measure, his connexion or acquaintance with
the prince; and added every day new force to his authority over the
vassals of the barony. They received from him education in all
military exercises: his hospitality invited them to live and enjoy
society in his hall: their leisure, which was great, made them
perpetual retainers on his person, and partakers of his country sports
and amusements: they had no means of gratifying their ambition but by
making a figure in his train: his favour and countenance was their
greatest honour: his displeasure exposed them to contempt and
ignominy: and they felt every moment the necessity of his protection,
both in the controversies which occurred with other vassals, and, what
was more material, in the daily inroads and injuries which were
committed by the neighbouring barons. During the time of general war,
the sovereign, who marched at the head of his armies, and was the
great protector of the state, always acquired some accession to his
authority, which he lost during the intervals of peace and
tranquillity: but the loose police, incident to the feudal
constitutions, maintained a perpetual, though secret hostility,
between the several members of the state; and the vassals found no
means of securing themselves against the injuries to which they were
continually exposed, but by closely adhering to their chief, and
falling into a submissive dependence upon him.

If the feudal government was so little favourable to the true liberty
even of the military vassal, it was still more destructive of the
independence and security of the other members of the state, or what,
in a proper sense, we call the people. A great part of them were
SERFS, and lived in a state of absolute slavery or villanage: the
other inhabitants of the country paid their rents in services, which
were in a great measure arbitrary; and they could expect no redress of
injuries, in a court of barony, from men who thought they had a right
to oppress and tyrannize over them. The towns were situated either
within the demesnes of the king, or the lands of the great barons, and
were almost entirely subjected to the absolute will of their master.
The languishing state of commerce kept the inhabitants poor and
contemptible; and the political institutions were calculated to render
that poverty perpetual. The barons and gentry, living in rustic
plenty and hospitality, gave no encouragement to the arts, and had no
demand for any of the more elaborate manufactures: every profession
was held in contempt but that of arms: and if any merchant or
manufacturer rose by industry and frugality to a degree of opulence,
he found himself but the more exposed to injuries, from the envy and
avidity of the military nobles.

These concurring causes gave the feudal governments so strong a bias
towards aristocracy, that the royal authority was extremely eclipsed
in all the European states; and, instead of dreading the growth of
monarchical power, we might rather expect, that the community would
every where crumble into so many independent baronies, and lose the
political union by which they were cemented. In elective monarchies,
the event was commonly answerable to this expectation; and the barons,
gaining ground on every vacancy of the throne, raised themselves
almost to a state of sovereignty, and sacrificed to their power both
the rights of the crown and the liberties of the people. But
hereditary monarchies had a principle of authority which was not so
easily subverted; and there were several causes which still maintained
a degree of influence in the hands of the sovereign.

The greatest baron could never lose view entirely of those principles
of the feudal constitution which bound him, as a vassal, to submission
and fealty towards his prince; because he was every moment obliged to
have recourse to those principles, in exacting fealty and submission
from his own vassals. The lesser barons, finding that the
annihilation of royal authority left them exposed, without protection,
to the insults and injuries of more potent neighbours, naturally
adhered to the crown, and promoted the execution of general and equal
laws. The people had still a stronger interest to desire the grandeur
of the sovereign; and the king, being the legal magistrate, who
suffered by every internal convulsion or oppression, and who regarded
the great nobles as his immediate rivals, assumed the salutary office
of general guardian or protector of the Commons. Besides the
prerogatives with which the law invested him, his large demesnes and
numerous retainers rendered him, in one sense, the greatest baron in
his kingdom; and where he was possessed of personal vigour and
abilities, (for his situation required these advantages,) he was
commonly able to preserve his authority, and maintain his station as
head of the community, and the chief fountain of law and justice.

The first kings of the Norman race were favoured by another
circumstance, which preserved them from the encroachments of their
barons. They were generals of a conquering army, which was obliged to
continue in a military posture, and to maintain great subordination
under their leader, in order to secure themselves from the revolt of
the numerous natives, whom they had bereaved of all their properties
and privileges. But though this circumstance supported the authority
of William and his immediate successors, and rendered them extremely
absolute, it was lost as soon as the Norman barons began to
incorporate with the nation, to acquire a security in their
possessions, and to fix their influence over their vassals, tenants,
and slaves: and the immense fortunes which the Conqueror had bestowed
on his chief captains served to support their independence, and make
them formidable to their sovereign.

He gave, for instance, to Hugh de Abrincis, his sister's son, the
whole county of Chester, which he erected into a palatinate, and
rendered by his grant almost independent of the crown [k]. Robert,
Earl of Mortaigne, had 973 manors and lordships: Allan, Earl of
Britany and Richmond, 442: Odo, Bishop of Baieux, 439 [l]: Geoffrey,
Bishop of Coutance, 280 [m]: Walter Giffard, Earl of Buckingham, 107:
William, Earl Warrenne, 298, besides 28 towns or hamlets in Yorkshire:
Todenei, 81: Roger Bigod, 123: Robert, Earl of Eu, 119: Roger
Mortimer, 132, besides several hamlets: Robert de Stafford, 130:
Walter de Eurus, Earl of Salisbury, 46: Geoffrey de Mandeville, 118:
Richard de Clare, 171: Hugh de Beauchamp, 47: Baldwin de Ridvers, 164:
Henry de Ferrars, 222: William de Percy, 119 [n]: Norman d'Arcy, 33
[o]. Sir Henry Spellman computes, that, in the large county of
Norfolk, there were not, in the Conqueror's time, above sixty-six
proprietors of land [p]. Men, possessed of such princely revenues and
jurisdictions, could not long be retained in the rank of subjects.
The great Earl Warrenne, in a subsequent reign, when he was questioned
concerning his right to the lands which he possessed, drew his sword,
which he produced as his title; adding, that William the Bastard did
not conquer the kingdom himself; but that the barons, and his ancestor
among the rest, were joint adventurers in the enterprise [q].
[FN [k] Camd. in Chesh. Spellm. Gloss. in verb. COMES PALATINUS. [l]
Brady's Hist. p. 198, 200. [m] Order. Vital. [n] Dugdale's Baronage,
from Doomsday Book, vol. i. p. 60, 74; iii. 112, 132, 136, 138, 156,
174, 200, 207, 223, 254, 257, 269. [o] Ibid. p. 369. It is
remarkable, that this family of d'Arcy seems to be the only male
descendants of any of the Conqueror's barons now remaining among the
Peers. Lord Holdernesse is the heir of that family. [p] Spellm.
Gloss. in verb. DOMESDAY. [q] Dugd. Bar. vol. i. p. 79. Ibid.
Origines Juridicales, p. 13.]

[MN The feudal Parliament.]
The supreme legislative power of England was lodged in the king and
great council, or what was afterwards called the Parliament. It is
not doubted but the archbishops, bishops, and most considerable
abbots, were constituent members of this council. They sat by a
double title: by prescription, as having always possessed that
privilege, through the whole Saxon period, from the first
establishment of Christianity; and by their right of baronage, as
holding of the king IN CAPITE, by military service. These two titles
of the prelates were never accurately distinguished. When the
usurpations of the church had risen to such a height as to make the
bishops affect a separate dominion, and regard their seat in
Parliament as a degradation of their episcopal dignity; the king
insisted, that they were barons, and, on that account, obliged, by the
general principles of the feudal law, to attend on him in his great
councils [r]. Yet there still remained some practices, which
supposed their title to be derived merely from ancient possession.
When a bishop was elected, he sat in Parliament before the king had
made him restitution of his temporalities; and during the vacancy of a
see, the guardian of the spiritualities was summoned to attend along
with the bishops.
[FN [r] Spellm. Gloss. In verb. BARO.]

The barons were another constituent part of the great council of the
nation. These held immediately of the crown by a military tenure:
they were the most honourable members of the state, and had a RIGHT to
be consulted in all public deliberations: they were the immediate
vassals of the crown, and owed as a SERVICE their attendance in the
court of their supreme lord. A resolution taken without their consent
was likely to be but ill executed; and no determination of any cause
or controversy among them had any validity, where the vote and advice
of the body did not concur. The dignity of earl or count was official
and territorial, as well as hereditary; and as all the earls were also
barons, they were considered as military vassals of the crown, were
admitted in that capacity into the general council, and formed the
most honourable and powerful branch of it.

But there was another class of the immediate military tenants of the
crown, no less, or probably more numerous than the barons, the tenants
IN CAPITE by knights' service; and these, however inferior in power or
property, held by a tenure which was equally honourable with that of
the others. A barony was commonly composed of several knights' fees;
and though the number seems not to have been exactly defined, seldom
consisted of less than fifty hides of land [s]: but where a man held
of the king only one or two knights' fees, he was still an immediate
vassal of the crown, and as such had a title to have a seat in the
general councils. But as this attendance was usually esteemed a
burden, and one too great for a man of slender fortune to bear
constantly, it is probable that, though he had a title, if he pleased,
to be admitted, he was not obliged, by any penalty, like the barons,
to pay a regular attendance. All the immediate military tenants of
the crown amounted not fully to 700, when Doomsday Book was framed;
and as the members were well pleased, on any pretext, to excuse
themselves from attendance, the assembly was never likely to become
too numerous for the despatch of public business.
[FN [s] Four hides made one knight's fee: the relief of a barony was
twelve times greater than that of a knight's fee; whence we may
conjecture its usual value. Spellm. Gloss. in verb. FEODUM. There
were 243,600 hides in England, and 60,215 knights' fees; whence it is
evident, that there were a little more than four hides in each
knight's fee.]

[MN The Commons.]
So far the nature of a general council, or ancient Parliament, is
determined, without any doubt or controversy. The only question seems
to be with regard to the Commons, or the representatives of counties
and boroughs, whether they were also, in more early times, constituent
parts of Parliament? This question was once disputed in England with
great acrimony; but such is the force of time and evidence, that they
can sometimes prevail, even over faction; and the question seems by
general consent, and even by their own, to be at last determined
against the ruling party. It is agreed, that the Commons were no part
of the great council, till some ages after the Conquest; and that the
military tenants alone of the crown composed that supreme and
legislative assembly.

The vassals of a baron were, by their tenure, immediately dependent on
him, owed attendance at his court, and paid all their duty to the
king, through that dependence which their lord was obliged by HIS
tenure to acknowledge to his sovereign and superior. Their land,
comprehended in the barony, was represented in Parliament by the baron
himself, who was supposed, according to the fictions of the feudal
law, to possess the direct property of it; and it would have been
deemed incongruous to give it any other representation. They stood in
the same capacity to him, that he and the other barons did to the
king. The former were peers of the barony; the latter were peers of
the realm. The vassals possessed a subordinate rank within their
district; the baron enjoyed a superior dignity in the great assembly:
they were in some degree his companions at home; he the king's
companion at court: and nothing can be more evidently repugnant to all
feudal ideas, and to that gradual subordination which was essential to
those ancient institutions, than to imagine that the king would apply
either for the advice or consent of men, who were of a rank so much
inferior, and whose duty was immediately paid to the MESNE lord that
was interposed between them and the throne [t].
[FN [t] Spellm. Gloss. in verb. BARO.]

If it be unreasonable to think that the vassals of a barony, though
their tenure was military, and noble, and honourable, were ever
summoned to give their opinion in national councils, much less can it
be supposed, that the tradesmen or inhabitants of boroughs, whose
condition was so much inferior, would be admitted to that privilege.
It appears from Doomsday, that the greatest boroughs were, at the time
of the Conquest, scarcely more than country villages; and that the
inhabitants lived in entire dependence on the king or great lords, and
were of a station little better than servile [u]. They were not then
so much as incorporated; they formed no community; were not regarded
as a body politic; and being really nothing but a number of low
dependent tradesmen, living, without any particular civil tie, in
neighbourhood together, they were incapable of being represented in
the states of the kingdom. Even in France, a country which made more
early advances in arts and civility than England, the first
corporation is sixty years posterior to the Conquest under the Duke of
Normandy; and the erecting of these communities was an invention of
Lewis the Gross, in order to free the people from slavery under the
lords, and to give them protection, by means of certain privileges and
a separate jurisdiction [w]. An ancient French writer calls them a
new and wicked device, to procure liberty to slaves, and encourage
them in shaking off the dominion of their masters [x]. The famous
charter, as it is called, of the Conqueror to the city of London,
though granted at a time when he assumed the appearance of gentleness
and lenity, is nothing but a letter of protection, and a declaration
that the citizens should not be treated as slaves [y]. By the English
feudal law, the superior lord was prohibited from marrying his female
ward to a burgess or a villain [z]; so near were these two ranks
esteemed to each other, and so much inferior to the nobility and
gentry. Besides possessing the advantages of birth, riches, civil
powers, and privileges, the nobles and gentlemen alone were armed; a
circumstance which gave them a mighty superiority, in an age when
nothing but the military profession was honourable, and when the loose
execution of laws gave so much encouragement to open violence, and
rendered it so decisive in all disputes and controversies [a].
[FN [u] LIBER HOMO anciently signified a gentleman; for scarce any
one beside was entirely free. Spellm. Gloss. in verbo. [w] Du
Cange's Gloss in verb. COMMUNE, COMMUNITAS. [x] Guibertus, de vita
sua, lib. 2. cap. 7. [y] Stat. of Merton, 1235. cap. 6. [z]
Hollingshed, vol. iii. p. 15. [a] Madox's Baron. Angl. p. 19.]

The great similarity among the feudal governments of Europe is well
known to every man that has any acquaintance with ancient history; and
the antiquaries of all foreign countries, where the question was never
embarrassed by party disputes, have allowed, that the Commons came
very late to be admitted to a share in the legislative power. In
Normandy particularly, whose constitution was most likely to be
William's model in raising his new fabric of English government, the
states were entirely composed of the clergy and nobility; and the
first incorporated boroughs or communities of that duchy were Rouen
and Falaise, which enjoyed their privileges by a grant of Philip
Augustus in the year 1207 [b]. All the ancient English historians,
when they mention the great council of the nation, call it an assembly
of the baronage, nobility, or great men; and none of their
expressions, though several hundred passages might be produced, can,
without the utmost violence, be tortured to a meaning, which will
admit the Commons to be constituent members of that body [c]. If in
the long period of two hundred years, which elapsed between the
Conquest and the latter end of Henry III., and which abounded in
factions, revolutions, and convulsions of all kinds, the House of
Commons never performed one single legislative act, so considerable as
to be once mentioned by any of the numerous historians of that age,
they must have been totally insignificant: and, in that case, what
reason can be assigned for their ever being assembled? Can it be
supposed that men of so little weight or importance possessed a
negative voice against the king and the barons? Every page of the
subsequent histories discovers their existence; though these histories
are not written with greater accuracy than the preceding ones, and
indeed scarcely equal them in that particular. The MAGNA CHARTA of
King John provides, that no scutage or aid should be imposed, either
on the land or towns, but by consent of the great council; and for
more security, it enumerates the persons entitled to a seat in that
assembly, the prelates and immediate tenants of the crown, without any
mention of the Commons: an authority so full, certain, and explicit,
that nothing but the zeal of party could ever have procured credit to
any contrary hypothesis.
[FN [b] Norman. Du Chesnii, p. 1066. Du Cange, Gloss, in verb.
COMMUNE. [c] Sometimes the historians mention the people, POPULUS, as
part of the Parliament; but they always mean the laity, in opposition
to the clergy. Sometimes the word COMMUNITAS is found; but it always
means COMMUNITAS BARONAGII. These points are clearly proved by Dr.
Brady. There is also mention sometimes made of a crowd or multitude
that thronged into the great council on particular interesting
occasions; but as deputies from boroughs are never once spoken of, the
proof that they had not then any existence becomes the more certain
and undeniable. These never could make a crowd, as they must have had
a regular place assigned them, if they had made a regular part of the
legislative body. There were only one hundred and thirty boroughs who
received writs of summons from Edward I. It is expressly said in
Gesta. Reg. Steph. p. 932, that it was usual for the populace, VULGUS,
to crowd into the great councils; where they were plainly mere
spectators, and could only gratify their curiosity.]

It was probably the example of the French barons which first
emboldened the English to require greater independence from their
sovereign: it is also probable, that the boroughs and corporations of
England were established in imitation of those of France. It may,
therefore, be proposed as no unlikely conjecture, that both the chief
privileges of the Peers in England and the liberty of the Commons were
originally the growth of that foreign country.

In ancient times, men were little solicitous to obtain a place in the
legislative assemblies; and rather regarded their attendance as a
burden, which was not compensated by any return of profit or honour
proportionate to the trouble and expense. The only reason for
instituting those public councils was, on the part of the subject,
that they desired some security from the attempts of arbitrary power;
and on the part of the sovereign, that he despaired of governing men
of such independent spirits without their own consent and concurrence.
But the Commons, or the inhabitants of boroughs, had not as yet
reached such a degree of consideration as to desire SECURITY against
their prince, or to imagine that, even if they were assembled in a
representative body, they had power or rank sufficient to enforce it.
The only protection which they aspired to, was against the immediate
violence and injustice of their fellow-citizens; and this advantage
each of them looked for, from the courts of justice, or from the
authority of some great lord, to whom, by law or his own choice, he
was attached. On the other hand, the sovereign was sufficiently
assured of obedience in the whole community, if he procured the
concurrence of the nobles; nor had he reason to apprehend, that any
order of the state could resist his and their united authority. The
military sub-vassals could entertain no idea of opposing both their
prince and their superiors: the burgesses and tradesmen could much
less aspire to such a thought: and thus, even if history were silent
on the head, we have reason to conclude, from the known situation of
society during those ages, that the Commons were never admitted as
members of the legislative body.

The EXECUTIVE power of the Anglo-Norman government was lodged in the
king. Besides the stated meetings of the national council at the
three great festivals of Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide [d], he
was accustomed, on any sudden exigence, to summon them together. He
could at his pleasure command the attendance of his barons and their
vassals, in which consisted the military force of the kingdom; and
could employ them, during forty days, either in resisting a foreign
enemy, or reducing his rebellious subjects. And what was of great
importance, the whole JUDICIAL power was ultimately in his hands, and
was exercised by officers and ministers of his appointment.
[FN [d] Dugd. Orig. Jurid. p. 15. Spellm. Gloss. In verbo

[MN Judicial power.]
The general plan of the Anglo-Norman government was, that the court of
barony was appointed to decide such controversies as arose between
the several vassals or subjects of the same barony; the hundred court
and county court, which were still continued as during the Saxon times
[e], to judge between the subjects of different baronies [f]; and the
CURIA REGIS, or king's court, to give sentence among the barons
themselves [g]. But this plan, though simple, was attended with some
circumstances which, being derived from a very extensive authority
assumed by the Conqueror, contributed to increase the royal
prerogative: and, as long as the state was not disturbed by arms,
reduced every order of the community to some degree of dependence and
[FN [e] Ang. Sacra, vol. i. p. 334, &c. Dugd. Orig. Jurid. p. 27, 29.
Madox, Hist. of Exch. p. 75, 76. Spellm. Gloss. in verbo HUNDRED.
[f] None of the feudal governments in Europe had such institutions as
the county courts, which the great authority of the Conqueror still
retained from the Saxon customs. All the freeholders of the county,
even the greatest barons, were obliged to attend the sheriffs in these
courts, and to assist them in the administration of justice. By these
means they received frequent and sensible admonitions of their
dependence on the king or supreme magistrate: they formed a kind of
community with their fellow barons and freeholders: they were often
drawn from their individual and independent state, peculiar to the
feudal system, and were made members of a political body: and,
perhaps, this institution of county courts in England has had greater
effects on the government than has yet been distinctly pointed out by
historians, or traced by antiquaries. The barons were never able to
free themselves from this attendance on the sheriffs and itinerant
justices till the reign of Henry III. [g] Brady, Pref. p. 143.]

The king himself often sat in his court, which always attended his
person [h]: he there heard causes and pronounced judgment [i]; and
though he was assisted by the advice of the other members, it is not
to be imagined that a decision could easily be obtained contrary to
his inclination or opinion. In his absence the chief justiciary
presided, who was the first magistrate in the state, and a kind of
viceroy, on whom depended all the civil affairs of the kingdom [k]
The other chief officers of the crown, the constable, mareschal,
seneschal, chamberlain, treasurer, and chancellor [l], were members,
together with such feudal barons as thought proper to attend, and the
barons of the exchequer, who at first were also feudal barons,
appointed by the king [m]. This court, which was sometimes called the
king's court, sometimes the court of exchequer, judged in all causes,
civil and criminal, and comprehended the whole business which is now
shared out among four courts, the chancery, the king's-bench, the
common-pleas, and the exchequer [n].
[FN [h] Madox, Hist. of Exch. p. 103. [i] Bracton, lib. 3. cap. 9.
Sec. 1. cap. 10. Sec. 1. [k] Spellm. Gloss. in verbo JUSTICIARII.
[l] Madox, Hist. Exch. p. 27, 29, 33, 38, 41, 54. The Normans
introduced the practice of sealing charters; and the chancellor's
office was to keep the great seal. Ingulph. Dugd. p. 33, 34. [m]
Madox, Hist. of the Exch. p. 134, 135. Gerv. Dorob. p. 1387. [n]
Madox, Hist. of the Exch. p. 56, 70.]

Such an accumulation of powers was itself a great source of authority,
and rendered the jurisdiction of the court formidable to all the
subjects; but the turn which judicial trials took soon after the
Conquest served still more to increase its authority, and to augment
the royal prerogatives. William, among the other violent changes
which he attempted and effected, had introduced the Norman law into
England [o], had ordered all the pleadings to be in that tongue, and
had interwoven, with the English jurisprudence, all the maxims and
principles, which the Normans, more advanced in cultivation, and
naturally litigious, were accustomed to observe in the distribution of
justice. Law now became a science, which at first fell entirely into
the hands of the Normans; and which, even after it was communicated to
the English, required so much study and application, that the laity,
in those ignorant ages, were incapable of attaining it, and it was a
mystery almost solely confined to the clergy, and chiefly to the monks
[p]. The great officers of the crown, and the feudal barons, who were
military men, found themselves unfit to penetrate into those
obscurities; and though they were entitled to a seat in the supreme
judicature, the business of the court was wholly managed by the chief
justiciary and the law barons, who were men appointed by the king and
entirely at his disposal [q]. This natural course of things was
forwarded by the multiplicity of business which flowed into that
court, and which daily augmented by the appeals from all the
subordinate judicatures of the kingdom.
[FN [o] Dial. de Scac. p. 30. apud Madox, Hist. of the Exchequer. [p]
Malmes. lib. 4. p. 123. [q] Dugd. Orig. Jurid. p. 25.]

In the Saxon times, no appeal was received in the king's court, except
upon the denial or delay of justice by the inferior courts; and the
same practice was still observed in most of the feudal kingdoms of
Europe. But the great power of the Conqueror established, at first,
in England, an authority, which the monarchs in France were not able
to attain till the reign of St. Lewis, who lived near two centuries
after: he empowered his court to receive appeals both from the courts
of barony and the county courts, and by that means brought the
administration of justice ultimately into the hands of the sovereign
[r]. And lest the expense or trouble of a journey to courts should
discourage suitors, and make them acquiesce in the decision of the
inferior judicatures, itinerant judges were afterwards established,
who made their circuits throughout the kingdom, and tried all causes
that were brought before them [s]. By this expedient the courts of
barony were kept in awe; and if they still preserved some influence,
it was only from the apprehensions which the vassals might entertain
of disobliging their superior, by appealing from his jurisdiction.
But the county courts were much discredited; and as the freeholders
were found ignorant of the intricate principles and forms of the new
law, the lawyers gradually brought all business before the king's
judges, and abandoned the ancient simple and popular judicature.
After this manner, the formalities of justice, which, though they
appear tedious and cumbersome, are found requisite to the support of
liberty in all monarchical governments, proved at first, by a
combination of causes, very advantageous to royal authority in
[FN [r] Madox, Hist. of the Exch. p. 65. Glanv. lib. 12. cap. 1. 7.
LL. Hen. I. Sec. 31, apud Wilkins, p. 248. Fitz-Stephens, p. 36.
Coke's Comment. on the statute of Marlbridge, cap. 20. [s] Madox,
Hist. of the Exch. p. 83, 84, 100. Gerv. Dorob. p. 1410. What made
the Anglo-Norman barons more readily submit to appeals from their
court to the king's court of exchequer, was their being accustomed to
like appeals in Normandy to the ducal court of exchequer. See
Gilbert's History of the Exchequer, p. 1, 2; though the author thinks
it doubtful, whether the Norman court was not rather copied from the
English, p. 6.]

[MN Revenue of the crown.]
The power of the Norman kings was also much supported by a great
revenue; and by a revenue that was fixed, perpetual, and independent
of the subject. The people, without betaking themselves to arms, had
no check upon the king, and no regular security for the due
administration of justice. In those days of violence, many instances
of oppression passed unheeded; and soon after were openly pleaded as
precedents, which it was unlawful to dispute or control. Princes and
ministers were too ignorant to be themselves sensible of the
advantages attending an equitable administration; and there was no
established council or assembly which could protect the people, and,
by withdrawing supplies, regularly and peaceably admonish the king of
his duty, and ensure the execution of the laws.

The first branch of the king's stated revenue was the royal demesnes
or crown lands, which were very extensive, and comprehended, besides a
great number of manors, most of the chief cities of the kingdom. It
was established by law, that the king could alienate no part of his
demesne, and that he himself, or his successor, could at any time
resume such donations [t]: but this law was never regularly observed;
which happily rendered in time the crown somewhat more dependent. The
rent of the crown lands, considered merely as so much riches, was a
source of power: the influence of the king over his tenants and the
inhabitants of his towns increased this power: but the other numerous
branches of his revenue, besides supplying his treasury, gave, by
their very nature, a great latitude to arbitrary authority, and were a
support of the prerogative; as will appear from an enumeration of
[FN [t] Fleta, lib. 1. cap. 8. Sec. 17. lib. 3. cap. 6. Sec. 3.
Bracton, lib. 2. cap. 5.]

The king was never content with the stated rents, but levied heavy
talliages at pleasure on the inhabitants both of town and country, who
lived within his demesne. All bargains of sale, in order to prevent
theft, being prohibited, except in boroughs and public markets [u], he
pretended to exact tolls, on all goods which were there sold [w]. He
seized two hogsheads, one before and one behind the mast, from every
vessel that imported wine. All goods paid to his customs a
proportionable part of their value [x]: passage over bridges and on
rivers was loaded with tolls at pleasure [y]: and though the boroughs
by degrees bought the liberty of farming these impositions, yet the
revenue profited by these bargains: new sums were often exacted for
the renewal and confirmation of their charters [z] and the people were
thus held in perpetual dependence.
[FN [u] LL. Will. I. cap. 61. [w] Madox, p. 530. [x] Ibid. p. 529.
This author says a fifteenth. But it is not easy to reconcile this
account to other authorities. [y] Madox, p. 529. [z] Madox's Hist.
of the Exch. p. 275, 276, 277, &c.]

Such was the situation of the inhabitants within the royal demesnes.
But the possessors of land, or the military tenants, though they were
better protected both by law, and by the great privilege of carrying
arms, were, from the nature of their tenures, much exposed to the
inroads of power, and possessed not what we should esteem, in our age,
a very durable security. The Conqueror ordained, that the barons
should be obliged to pay nothing beyond their stated services [a],
except a reasonable aid to ransom his person if he were taken in war,
to make his eldest son a knight, and to marry his eldest daughter.
What should, on these occasions, be deemed a reasonable aid, was not
determined; and the demands of the crown were so far discretionary.
[FN [a] LL. Will. Conq. Sec. 55.]

The king could require in war the personal attendance of his vassals,
that is, of almost all the landed proprietors; and if they declined
the service, they were obliged to pay him a composition in money,
which was called a scutage. The sum was, during some reigns,
precarious and uncertain; it was sometimes levied without allowing the
vassal the liberty of personal service [b]; and it was an usual
artifice of the king, to pretend an expedition, that he might be
entitled to levy the scutage from his military tenants. Danegelt was
another species of land-tax levied by the early Norman kings,
arbitrarily, and contrary to the laws of the Conqueror [c]. Moneyage
was also a general land-tax of the same nature, levied by the two
first Norman kings, and abolished by the charter of Henry I. [d]. It
was a shilling paid every three years by each hearth, to induce the
king not to use his prerogative in debasing the coin. Indeed it
appears from that charter, that though the Conqueror had granted his
military tenants an immunity from all taxes and talliages, he and his
son William had never thought themselves bound to observe that rule,
but had levied impositions at pleasure on all the landed estates of
the kingdom. The utmost that Henry grants, is, that the land
cultivated by the military tenant himself shall not be so burdened;
but he reserves the power of taxing the farmers; and as it is known
that Henry's charter was never observed in any one article, we may be
assured that this prince and his successors retracted even this small
indulgence, and levied arbitrary impositions on all the lands of all
their subjects. These taxes were sometimes very heavy; since
Malmesbury tells us, that in the reign of William Rufus, the farmers,
on account of them, abandoned tillage, and a famine ensued [e].
[FN [b] Gervase de Tilbury, p. 25. [c] Madox's Hist of the Exch. p.
475. [d] Matth. Paris, p. 38. [e] So also Chron. Abb. St. Petri de
Burgo, p. 55. Knyghton, p. 2366.]

The escheats were a great branch both of power and of revenue,
especially during the first reigns after the Conquest. In default of
posterity from the first baron, his land reverted to the crown, and
continually augmented the king's possessions. The prince had indeed
by law a power of alienating these escheats; but by this means he had
an opportunity of establishing the fortunes of his friends and
servants, and thereby enlarging his authority. Sometimes he retained
them in his own hands; and they were gradually confounded with the
royal demesnes, and became difficult to be distinguished from them.
This confusion is probably the reason why the king acquired the right
of alienating his demesnes.

But besides escheats from default of heirs, those which ensued from
crimes, or breach of duty towards the superior lord, were frequent in
ancient times. If the vassal, being thrice summoned to attend his
superior's court, and do fealty, neglected or refused obedience, he
forfeited all title to his land [f]. If he denied his tenure, or
refused his service, he was exposed to the same penalty [g]. If he
sold his estate without licence from his lord [h], or if he sold it
upon any other tenure or title than that by which he himself held it
[i], he lost all right to it. The adhering to his lord's enemies [k],
deserting him in war [l], betraying his secrets [m], debauching his
wife, or his near relations [n], or even using indecent freedoms with
them [o], might be punished by forfeiture. The higher crimes, rapes,
robbery, murder, arson, &c., were called felony; and being interpreted
want of fidelity to his lord, made him lose his fief [p]. Even where
the felon was vassal to a baron, though his immediate lord enjoyed the
forfeiture, the king might retain possession of his estate during a
twelvemonth, and had the right of spoiling and destroying it, unless
the baron paid him a reasonable composition [q]. We have not here
enumerated all the species of felonies, or of crimes by which
forfeiture was incurred: we have said enough to prove, that the
possession of feudal property was anciently somewhat precarious, and
that the primary idea was never lost, of its being a kind of FEE or
[FN [f] Hottom. de Feud. Disp. cap. 38. col. 886. [g] Lib. Feud. lib.
3. tit. 1; lib. 4. tit. 21, 39. [h] Id. lib. 1. tit. 21. [i] Id.
lib. 4. tit. 44. [k] Id. lib. 3. tit. 1. [l] Id. lib. 4. tit. 14,
21. [m] Id. lib. 4. tit. 14. [n] Id. lib. 1. tit. 14, 23. [o] Id.
lib. 1. tit. 1. [p] Spellm. Gloss. in verb. FELONIA. [q] Ibid.
Glanville, lib. 7 cap. 17.]

When a baron died, the king immediately took possession of the estate;
and the heir, before he recovered his right, was obliged to make
application to the crown, and desire that he might be admitted to do
homage for his land, and pay a composition to the king. This
composition was not at first fixed by law, at least by practice: the
king was often exorbitant in his demands, and kept possession of the
land till they were complied with.

If the heir were a minor, the king retained the whole profit of the
estate till his majority; and might grant what sum he thought proper
for the education and maintenance of the young baron. This practice
was also founded on the notion, that a fief was a benefice, and that
while the heir could not perform his military services, the revenue
devolved to the superior, who employed another in his stead. It is
obvious, that a great proportion of the landed property must, by means
of this device, be continually in the hands of the prince, and that
all the noble families were thereby held in perpetual dependence.
When the king granted the wardship of a rich heir to any one, he had
the opportunity of enriching a favourite or minister: if he sold it,
he thereby levied a considerable sum of money. Simon de Mountfort
paid Henry III. ten thousand marks, an immense sum in those days, for
the wardship of Gilbert de Umfreville [r]. Geoffrey de Mandeville
paid to the same prince the sum of twenty thousand marks, that he
might marry Isabel, Countess of Gloucester, and possess all her lands
and knights' fees. This sum would be equivalent to three hundred
thousand, perhaps four hundred thousand pounds in our time [s].
[FN [r] Madox's Hist. of the Exch. p. 223. [s] Madox's Hist. of the
Exch. p. 322.]

If the heir were a female, the king was entitled to offer her any
husband of her rank he thought proper; and if she refused him, she
forfeited her land. Even a male heir could not marry without the
royal consent; and it was usual for men to pay large sums for the
liberty of making their own choice in marriage [t]. No man could
dispose of his land, either by sale or will, without the consent of
his superior. The possessor was never considered as full proprietor:
he was still a kind of beneficiary; and could not oblige his superior
to accept of any vassal that was not agreeable to him.
[FN [t] Ibid. p. 320.]

Fines, amerciaments, and oblatas, as they were called, were another
considerable branch of the royal power and revenue. The ancient
records of the exchequer, which are still preserved, give surprising
accounts of the numerous fines and amerciaments levied in those days
[u] and of the strange inventions fallen upon to exact money from the
subject. It appears that the ancient kings of England put themselves
entirely on the footing of the barbarous eastern princes, whom no man
must approach without a present, who sell all their good offices, and
who intrude themselves into every business that they may have a
pretence for extorting money. Even justice was avowedly bought and
sold; the king's court itself, though the supreme judicature of the
kingdom, was open to none that brought not presents to the king; the
bribes given for the expedition, delay [w], suspension, and, doubtless
for the perversion of justice, were entered in the public registers of
the royal revenue, and remain as monuments of the perpetual iniquity
and tyranny of the times. The barons of the exchequer, for instance,
the first nobility of the kingdom, were not ashamed to insert, as an
article in their records, that the county of Norfolk paid a sum that
they might be fairly dealt with [x]; the borough of Yarmouth, that the
king's charters, which they have for their liberties, might not be
violated [y]; Richard, son of Gilbert, for the king's helping him to
recover his debt from the Jews [z]; Serlo, son of Terlavaston, that he
might be permitted to make his defence in case he were accused of a
certain homicide [a]; Walter de Burton, for free law, if accused of
wounding another [b]; Robert de Essart, for having an inquest to find
whether Roger the Butcher, and Wace and Humphrey, accused him of
robbery and theft out of envy and ill-will or not [c]; William
Buhurst, for having an inquest to find whether he were accused of the
death of one Godwin out of ill-will, or for just cause [d]. I have
selected these few instances from a great number of a like kind, which
Madox had selected from a still greater number, preserved in the
ancient rolls of the exchequer [e].
[FN [u] Id. p. 272. [w] Id. p. 274, 309. [x] Id. p. 295. [y] Id.
ibid. [z] Madox's Hist. of the Exch. p. 296. He paid two hundred
marks, great sum in those days. [a] Id. p. 296. [b] Id. ibid. [c]
Id. p. 298. [d] Id. p. 302. [e] Id. chap. 12.]

Sometimes the party litigant offered the king a certain portion, a
half, a third, a fourth, payable out of the debts, which he, as the
executor of justice, should assist him in recovering [f]. Theophania
de Westland agreed to pay the half of two hundred and twelve marks,
that she might recover that sum against James de Fughleston [g];
Solomon, the Jew, engaged to pay one mark out of every seven that he
should recover against Hugh de la Hose [h]; Nicholas Morrel promised
to pay sixty pounds, that the Earl of Flanders might be distrained to
pay him three hundred and forty-three pounds, which the earl had taken
from him; and these sixty pounds were to be paid out of the first
money that Nicholas should recover from the earl [i].
[FN [f] Id. p. 311. [g] Id. ibid. [h] Id. p. 79, 312. [i] Id. p.

As the king assumed the entire power over trade, he was to be paid for
a permission to exercise commerce or industry of any kind [k]. Hugh
Oisel paid four hundred marks for liberty to trade in England [l];
Nigel de Havene gave fifty marks for the partnership in merchandize
which he had with Gervase de Hanton [m]; the men of Worcester paid one
hundred shillings, that they might have the liberty of selling and
buying dyed cloth as formerly [n]; several other towns paid for a like
liberty [o]. The commerce indeed of the kingdom was so much under
the control of the king, that he erected guilds, corporations, and
monopolies, wherever he pleased; and levied sums for these exclusive
privileges [p].
[FN [k] Id. p. 323. [l] Id. ibid. [m] Id. ibid. [n] Id. p. 324.
[o] Id. ibid. [p] Madox's Hist. of the Exch. p. 232, 233, &c.]

There were no profits so small as to be below the king's attention.
Henry, son of Arthur, gave ten dogs to have a recognition against the
Countess of Copland for one knight's fee [q]. Roger, son of Nicholas,
gave twenty lampreys and twenty shads for an inquest to find, whether
Gilbert, son of Alured, gave to Roger two hundred muttons to obtain
his confirmation for certain lands, or whether Roger took them from
him by violence [r]; Geoffrey Fitz-Pierre, the chief justiciary, gave
two good Norway hawks, that Walter le Madine might have leave to
export a hundred weight of cheese out of the king's dominions [s].
[FN [q] Id. p. 298. [r] Id. p. 305. [s] Id. p. 325.]

It is really amusing to remark the strange business in which the king
sometimes interfered, and never without a present. The wife of Hugh
de Neville gave the king two hundred hens, that she might lie with her
husband one night [t]; and she brought with her two sureties, who
answered each for a hundred hens. It is probable that her husband was
a prisoner, which debarred her from having access to him. The Abbot
of Rucford paid ten marks for leave to erect houses and place men upon
his land near Welhang, in order to secure his wood there from being
stolen [u]. Hugh, Archdeacon of Wells, gave one tun of wine for leave
to carry six hundred sums of corn whither he would [w]; Peter de
Peraris gave twenty marks for leave to salt fishes, as Peter Chevalier
used to do [x].
[FN [t] Id. p. 320. [u] Id. p. 326. [w] Id. p. 320. [x] Id. p.

It was usual to pay high fines, in order to gain the king's good-will,
or mitigate his anger. In the reign of Henry II., Gilbert, the son of
Fergus, fines in nine hundred and nineteen pounds, nine shillings, to
obtain that prince's favour; William de Chataignes, a thousand marks,
that he would remit his displeasure. In the reign of Henry III., the
city of London fines in no less a sum than twenty thousand pounds on
the same account [y].
[FN [y] Id. p. 327, 329.]

The king's protection and good offices of every kind were bought and
sold. Robert Grislet paid twenty marks of silver, that the king would
help him against the Earl of Mortaigne, in a certain plea [z]: Robert
de Cundet gave thirty marks of silver, that the king would bring him
to an accord with the Bishop of Lincoln [a]: Ralph de Breckham gave a
hawk, that the king would protect him [b]; and this is a very frequent
reason for payments: John, son of Ordgar, gave a Norway hawk, to have
the king's request to the king of Norway to let him have his brother
Godard's chattels [c]: Richard de Neville gave twenty palfreys to
obtain the king's request to Isolda Bisset, that she should take him
for a husband [d]: Roger Fitz-Walter gave three good palfreys to have
the king's letter to Roger Bertram's mother, that she should marry him
[e]: Eling, the dean, paid one hundred marks, that his whore and his
children might be let out upon bail [f]: the Bishop of Winchester gave
one tun of good wine for his not putting the king in mind to give a
girdle to the Countess of Albemarle [g]: Robert de Veaux gave five of
the best palfreys, that the king would hold his tongue about Henry
Pinel's wife [h]. There are in the records of exchequer, many other
singular instances of a like nature [i]. It will, however, be just to
remark, that the same ridiculous practices and dangerous abuses
prevailed in Normandy, and probably in all the other states of Europe
[k]: England was not, in this respect, more barbarous than its
[FN [z] Madox's Hist. of the Exch. p. 329. [a] Id. p. 330. [b] Id.
p. 332. [c] Id. ibid. [d] Id. p. 333. [e] Id. ibid. [f] Id. p.
342. PRO HABENDA AMICA SUA ET FILIIS, &c. [g] Id. p. 352. [h] Id.
p. 332. Hugh Oisel was to give the king two robes of a good green
colour, to have the king's letters patent to the merchants of
Flanders, with a request to render him one thousand marks, which he
lost in Flanders. The Abbot of Hyde paid thirty marks, to have the
king's letters of request to the Archbishop of Canterbury, to remove
certain monks that were against the abbot. Roger de Trihanton paid
twenty marks and a palfrey, to have the king's request to Richard de
Umfreville to give him his sister to wife, and to the sister, that she
would accept him for a husband. William de Cheveringworth paid five
marks, to have the king's letter to the Abbot of Perfore, to let him
enjoy peaceably his tithes as formerly. Matthew de Hereford, clerk,
paid ten marks for a letter of request to the Bishop of Llandaff, to
let him enjoy peaceably his church of Schenfrith. Andrew Neulun gave
three Flemish caps for the king's request to the Prior of Chikesand,
for performance of an agreement made between them. Henry de Fontibus
gave a Lombardy horse of value, to have the king's request to Henry
Fitz-Hervey, that he would grant him his daughter to wife. Roger, son
of Nicholas, promised all the lampreys he could get, to have the
king's request to Earl William Marshall, that he would grant him the
manor of Langeford at Firm. The burgesses of Gloucester promised
three hundred lampreys, that they might not be distrained to find the
prisoners of Poictou with necessaries, unless they pleased. Id. p.
352. Jordan, son of Reginald, paid twenty marks, to have the king's
request to William Paniel, that he would grant him the land of Mill
Nieresult, and the custody of his heirs: and if Jordan obtained the
same, he was pay the twenty marks, otherwise not. Id. p. 333. [k]
Madox's Hist. of the Exch. p. 359.]

These iniquitous practices of the Norman kings were so well known,
that on the death of Hugh Bigod, in the reign of Henry II., the best
and most just of these princes, the eldest son and the widow of this
nobleman came to court, and strove, by offering large presents to the
king, each of them to acquire possession of that rich inheritance.
The king was so equitable as to order the cause to be tried by the
great council! But, in the mean time, he seized all the money and
treasure of the deceased [l]. Peter of Blois, a judicious, and even
an elegant writer for that age, gives a pathetic description of the
venality of justice, and the oppressions of the poor, under the reign
of Henry; and he scruples not to complain to the king himself of these
abuses [m]. We may judge what the case would be under the government
of worst princes. The articles of inquiry concerning the conduct of
sheriffs, which Henry promulgated in 1170, show the great power, as
well as the licentiousness of these officers [n].
[FN [l] Bened. Abb. p. 180, 181. [m] Petri Bles. Epist. 95. apud
Bibl. Patrum, tom. p. xxiv. 2014. [n] Hoveden, Chron. Gerv. p. 1410.]

Amerciaments, or fines for crimes and trespasses, were another
considerable branch of the royal revenue [o]. Most crimes were atoned
for by money; the fines imposed were not limited by any rule or
statute; and frequently occasioned the total ruin of the person, even
for the slightest trespasses. The forest-laws, particularly, were a
great source of oppression. The king possessed sixty-eight forests,
thirteen chases, and seven hundred and eighty-one parks, in different
parts of England [p]; and considering the extreme passion of the
English and Normans for hunting, these were so many snares laid for
the people, by which they were allured into trespasses, and brought
within the reach of arbitrary and rigorous laws, which the king had
thought proper to enact by his own authority.
[FN [o] Madox, chap. 14. [p] Spellm. Gloss. in verbo FORESTA.]

But the most barefaced acts of tyranny and oppression were practised
against the Jews, who were entirely out of the protection of law, were
extremely odious from the bigotry of the people, and were abandoned to
the immeasurable rapacity of the king and his ministers. Besides many
other indignities to which they were continually exposed, it appears
that they were once all thrown into prison, and the sum of sixty-six
thousand marks exacted for their liberty [q]: at another time, Isaac
the Jew paid alone five thousand one hundred marks [r]; Brun, three
thousand marks [s]; Jurnet, two thousand; Bennet, five hundred: at
another, Licorica, widow of David, the Jew of Oxford, was required to
pay six thousand marks; and she was delivered over to six of the
richest and discreetest Jews in England, who were to answer for the
sum [t]. Henry III. borrowed five thousand marks from the Earl of
Cornwall; and for his repayment, consigned over to him all the Jews in
England [u]. The revenue arising from exactions upon this nation was
so considerable, that there was a particular court of exchequer set
apart for managing it [w].
[FN [q] Madox's Hist. of the Exch. p. 151. This happened in the reign
of King John. [r] Id. p. 151. [s] Id. p. 153. [t] Id. p. 168. [u]
Id. p. 156. [w] Id. chap. 7.]

[MN Commerce.]
We may judge concerning the low state of commerce among the English,
when the Jews, notwithstanding these oppressions, could still find
their account in trading among them, and lending them money. And as
the improvements of agriculture were also much checked by the immense
possessions of the nobility, by the disorders of the times, and by the
precarious state of feudal property, it appears that industry of no
kind could then have place in the kingdom [x].
[FN [x] We learn from the extracts given us of Doomsday by Brady, in
his Treatise of Boroughs, that almost all the boroughs of England had
suffered in the shock of the Conquest, and had extremely decayed
between the death of the Confessor, and the time when Doomsday was

It is asserted by Sir Henry Spellman [y], as an undoubted truth, that,
during the reigns of the first Norman princes, every edict of the
king, issued with the consent of his privy council, had the full force
of law. But the barons, surely, were not so passive as to intrust a
power, entirely arbitrary and despotic, into the hands of the
sovereign. It only appears, that the constitution had not fixed any
precise boundaries to the royal power; that the right of issuing
proclamations on any emergence, and of exacting obedience to them, a
right which was always supposed inherent in the crown, is very
difficult to be distinguished from a legislative authority; that the
extreme imperfection of the ancient laws, and the sudden exigencies
which often occurred in such turbulent governments, obliged the prince
to exert frequently the latent powers of his prerogative; that he
naturally proceeded, from the acquiescence of the people, to assume,
in many particulars of moment, an authority from which he had excluded
himself by express statutes, charters, or concessions, and which was,
in the main, repugnant to the general genius of the constitution; and
that the lives, the personal liberty, and the properties of all his
subjects, were less secured by law against the exertion of his
arbitrary authority, than by the independent power and private
connexions of each individual. It appears from the great charter
itself, that not only John, a tyrannical prince, and Richard, a
violent one, but their father, Henry, under whose reign the prevalence
of gross abuses is the least to be suspected, were accustomed, from
their sole authority, without process of law, to imprison, banish, and
attaint the freemen of their kingdom.
[FN [y] Gloss. in verb. JUDICIUM DEI. The author of the MIROIR DES
JUSTICES complains, that ordinances are only made by the king and his
clerks, and by aliens and others, who dare not contradict the king,
but study to please him. Whence, he concludes, laws are oftener
dictated by will, than founded on right.]

A great baron, in ancient times, considered himself as a kind of
sovereign within his territory; and was attended by courtiers and
dependents more zealously attached to him than the ministers of state
and the great officers were commonly to THEIR sovereign. He often
maintained in his court the parade of royalty, by establishing a
justiciary, constable, mareschal, chamberlain, seneschal, and
chancellor, and assigning to each of these officers a separate
province and command. He was usually very assiduous in exercising his
jurisdiction; and took such delight in that image of sovereignty, that
it was found necessary to restrain his activity, and prohibit him by
law from holding courts too frequently [z]. It is not to be doubted,
but the example, set him by the prince of a mercenary and sordid
extortion, would be faithfully copied, and that all his good and bad
offices, his justice and injustice, were equally put to sale. He had
the power, with the king's consent, to exact talliages even from the
free citizens who lived within his barony; and as his necessities made
him rapacious, his authority was usually found to be more oppressive
and tyrannical than that of the sovereign [a]. He was ever engaged in
hereditary or personal animosities or confederacies with his
neighbours, and often gave protection to all desperate adventurers and
criminals, who could be useful in serving his violent purposes. He
was able alone, in times of tranquillity, to obstruct the execution of
justice within his territories; and by combining with a few
malecontent barons of high rank and power, he could throw the state
into convulsions. And, on the whole, though the royal authority was
confined within bounds, and often within very narrow ones, yet the
check was irregular, and frequently the source of great disorders; nor
was it derived from the liberty of the people, but from the military
power of many petty tyrants, who were equally dangerous to the prince
and oppressive to the subject.
[FN [z] Dugd. Jurid. Orig. p. 26. [a] Madox, Hist. of the Exch. p.

[MN The Church.]
The power of the church was another rampart against royal authority;
but this defence was also the cause of many mischiefs and
inconveniences. The dignified clergy, perhaps, were not so prone to
immediate violence as the barons; but as they pretended to a total
independence on the state, and could always cover themselves with the
appearances of religion, they proved, in one respect, an obstruction
to the settlement of the kingdom, and to the regular execution of the
laws. The policy of the Conqueror was in this particular liable to
some exception. He augmented the superstitious veneration for Rome,
to which that age was so much inclined; and he broke those bands of
connexion, which, in the Saxon times, had preserved an union between
the lay and the clerical orders. He prohibited the bishops from
sitting in the county courts; he allowed ecclesiastical causes to be
tried in spiritual courts only [b]; and he so much exalted the power
of the clergy, that of sixty thousand two hundred and fifteen knights'
fees, into which he divided England, he placed no less than twenty-
eight thousand and fifteen under the church [c].
[FN [b] Char. Will. apud Wilkins, p. 230. Spellm. Conc. vol. ii. p.
14. [c] Spellm. Gloss. in verb. MANUS MORTUA. We are not to imagine,
as some have done, that the church possessed lands in this proportion,
but only that they and their vassals enjoyed such a proportionable
part of the landed property.]

[MN Civil laws.]
The right of primogeniture was introduced with the feudal law: an
institution which is hurtful, by producing and maintaining an unequal
division of private property; but is advantageous, in another respect,
by accustoming the people to a preference in favour of the eldest son,
and thereby preventing a partition or disputed succession in the
monarchy. The Normans introduced the use of surnames, which tend to
preserve the knowledge of families and pedigrees. They abolished none
of the old absurd methods of trial by the cross or ordeal; and they
added a new absurdity, the trial by single combat [d], which became a
regular part of jurisprudence, and was conducted with all the order,
method, devotion, and solemnity imaginable [e]. The ideas of chivalry
also seem to have been imported by the Normans: no traces of those
fantastic notions are to be found among the plain and rustic Saxons.
[FN [d] LL. Will. cap. 68. [e] Spellm. Gloss. in verb. CAMPUS. The
last instance of these duels was in the 15th of Eliz. So long did
that absurdity remain.]

[MN Manners.]
The feudal institutions, by raising the military tenants to a kind of
sovereign dignity, by rendering personal strength and valour
requisite, and by making every knight and baron his own protector and
avenger, begat that martial pride and sense of honour, which, being
cultivated and embellished by the poets and romance-writers of the
age, ended in chivalry. The virtuous knight fought not only in his
own quarrel, but in that of the innocent, of the helpless, and, above
all, of the fair, whom he supposed to be for ever under the
guardianship of his valiant arm. The uncourteous knight who, from his
castle, exercised robbery on travellers, and committed violence on
virgins, was the object of his perpetual indignation; and he put him
to death, without scruple, or trial, or appeal, whenever he met with
him. The great independence of men made personal honour and fidelity
the chief tie among them; and rendered it the capital virtue of every
true knight, or genuine professor of chivalry. The solemnities of
single combat, as established by law, banished the notion of every
thing unfair or unequal in rencounters; and maintained an appearance
of courtesy between the combatants till the moment of their
engagement. The credulity of the age grafted on this stock the notion
of giants, enchanters, dragons, spells [f], and a thousand wonders,
which still multiplied during the time of the crusades; when men,
returning from so great a distance, used the liberty of imposing every
fiction on their believing audience. These ideas of chivalry infected
the writings, conversation, and behaviour of men, during some ages;
and even after they were, in a great measure, banished by the revival
of learning, they left modern GALLANTRY and the POINT OF HONOUR, which
still maintain their influence, and are the genuine offspring of those
ancient affectations.
[FN [f] In all legal single combats, it was part of the champion's
oath, that he carried not about him any herb, spell, or enchantment,
by which he might procure victory. Dugd. Orig. Jurid. p. 82.]

The concession of the great charter, or rather its full establishment,
(for there was a considerable interval of time between the one and the
other,) gave rise, by degrees, to a new species of government, and
introduced some order and justice into the administration. The
ensuing scenes of our history are therefore somewhat different from
the preceding. Yet the great charter contained no establishment of
new courts, magistrates, or senates, nor abolition of the old. It
introduced no new distribution of the powers of the commonwealth, and
no innovation in the political or public law of the kingdom. It only
guarded, and that merely by verbal clauses, against such tyrannical
practices as are incompatible with civilized government, and, if they
become very frequent, are incompatible with all government. The
barbarous license of the kings, and perhaps of the nobles, was
thenceforth somewhat more restrained: men acquired some more security
for their properties and their liberties: and government approached a
little nearer to that end for which it was originally instituted, the
distribution of justice, and the equal protection of the citizens.
Acts of violence and iniquity in the crown, which before were only
deemed injurious to individuals, and were hazardous chiefly in
proportion to the number, power, and dignity of the persons affected
by them, were now regarded, in some degree, as public injuries, and as
infringements of a charter calculated for general security. And thus
the establishment of the great charter, without seeming anywise to
innovate in the distribution of political power, became a kind of
epoch in the constitution.




[MN 1216.] Most sciences, in proportion as they increase and improve,
invent methods by which they facilitate their reasonings; and,
employing general theorems, are enabled to comprehend, in a few
propositions, a great number of inferences and conclusions. History
also, being a collection of facts which are multiplying without end,
is obliged to adopt such arts of abridgment, to retain the more
material events, and to drop all the minute circumstances, which are
only interesting during the time, or to the persons engaged in the
transactions. This truth is no where more evident than with regard to
the reign upon which we are going to enter. What mortal could have
the patience to write or read a long detail of such frivolous events
as those with which it is filled, or attend to a tedious narrative
which would follow, through a series of fifty-six years, the caprices
and weaknesses of so mean a prince as Henry? The chief reason why
Protestant writers have been so anxious to spread out the incidents of
this reign is, in order to expose the rapacity, ambition, and
artifices of the court of Rome; and to prove that the great
dignitaries of the Catholic church, while they pretended to have
nothing in view but the salvation of souls, had bent all their
attention to the acquisition of riches, and were restrained by no
sense of justice or of honour in the pursuit of that great object [a].
But this conclusion would readily be allowed them, though it were not
illustrated by such a detail of uninteresting incidents; and follows,
indeed, by an evident necessity, from the very situation in which that
church was placed with regard to the rest of Europe. For, besides
that ecclesiastical power, as it can always cover its operations under
a cloak of sanctity, and attacks men on the side where they dare not
employ their reason, lies less under control than civil government;
besides this general cause, I say, the pope and his courtiers were
foreigners to most of the churches which they governed; they could not
possibly have any other object than to pillage the provinces for
present gain; and as they lived at a distance, they would be little
awed by shame or remorse, in employing every lucrative expedient which
was suggested to them. England being one of the most remote provinces
attached to the Romish hierarchy, as well as the most prone to
superstition, felt severely during this reign, while its patience was
not yet fully exhausted, the influence of these causes; and we shall
often have occasion to touch cursorily upon such incidents. But we
shall not attempt to comprehend every transaction transmitted to us;
and, till the end of the reign, when the events become more memorable,
we shall not always observe an exact chronological order in our
[FN [a] M. Paris, p. 623.]

[MN Settlement of the government.]
The Earl of Pembroke, who, at the time of John's death, was Mareschal
of England, was, by his office, at the head of the armies, and
consequently, during a state of civil wars and convulsions, at the
head of the government; and it happened fortunately for the young
monarch and for the nation, that the power could not have been
intrusted into more able and more faithful hands. This nobleman, who
had maintained his loyalty unshaken to John, during the lowest fortune
of that monarch, determined to support the authority of the infant
prince; nor was he dismayed at the number and violence of his enemies.
Sensible that Henry, agreeably to the prejudices of the times, would
not be deemed a sovereign till crowned and anointed by a churchman, he
immediately carried the young prince to Gloucester, [MN 1216. 28th
Oct.] where the ceremony of coronation was performed, in the presence
of Gualo, the legate, and of a few noblemen, by the Bishops of
Winchester and Bath [b]. As the concurrence of the papal authority
was requisite to support the tottering throne, Henry was obliged to
swear fealty to the pope, and renew that homage to which his father
had already subjected the kingdom [c]; and in order to enlarge the
authority of Pembroke, and to give him a more regular and legal title
to it, a general council of the barons was soon after summoned at
Bristol, [MN 11th Nov.] where that nobleman was chosen protector of
the realm.
[FN [b] M. Paris, p. 200. Hist. Croyl. cont. p. 474. W. Heming. p.
562 Trivet, p. 168. [c] M. Paris, p. 200.]

Pembroke, that he might reconcile all men to the government of his
pupil, made him grant a new charter of liberties, which, though mostly
copied from the former concessions extorted from John, contains some
alterations which may be deemed remarkable [d]. The full privilege of
elections in the clergy, granted by the late king, was not confirmed,
nor the liberty of going out of the kingdom, without the royal
consent: whence we may conclude, that Pembroke and the barons, jealous
of the ecclesiastical power, both were desirous of renewing the king's
claim to issue a conge d'elire to the monks and chapters, and thought
it requisite to put some check to the frequent appeals to Rome. But
what may chiefly surprise us, is, that the obligation to which John
had subjected himself, of obtaining the consent of the great council
before he levied any aids or scutages upon the nation, was omitted;
and this article was even declared hard and severe, and was expressly
left to future deliberation. But we must consider, that, though this
limitation may perhaps appear to us the most momentous in the whole
charter of John, it was not regarded in that light by the ancient
barons, who were more jealous in guarding against particular acts of
violence in the crown, than against such general impositions, which,
unless they were evidently reasonable and necessary, could scarcely,
without general consent, be levied upon men who had arms in their
hands, and who could repel any act of oppression by which they were
all immediately affected. We accordingly find, that Henry, in the
course of his reign, while he gave frequent occasions for complaint,
with regard to his violations of the great charter, never attempted,
by his mere will, to levy any aids or scutages; though he was often
reduced to great necessities, and was refused supply by his people.
So much easier was it for him to transgress the law, when individuals
alone were affected, than even to exert his acknowledged prerogatives,
where the interest of the whole body was concerned.
[FN [d] Rymer, vol. i. p. 215.]

This charter was again confirmed by the king in the ensuing year, with
the addition of some articles, to prevent the oppressions by sheriffs;
and also with an additional charter of forests, a circumstance of
great moment in those ages, when hunting was so much the occupation of
the nobility, and when the king comprehended so considerable a part of
the kingdom within his forests, which he governed by peculiar and
arbitrary laws. All the forests which had been enclosed since the
reign of Henry II. were disafforested; and new perambulations were
appointed for that purpose: offences in the forests were declared to
be no longer capital; but punishable by fine, imprisonment, and more
gentle penalties: and all the proprietors of land recovered the power
of cutting and using their own wood at their pleasure.

Thus these famous charters were brought nearly to the shape in which
they have ever since stood; and they were, during many generations,
the peculiar favourites of the English nation, and esteemed the most
sacred rampart to national liberty and independence. As they secured
the rights of all orders of men, they were anxiously defended by all,
and became the basis, in a manner, of the English monarchy, and a kind
of original contract, which both limited the authority of the king,
and ensured the conditional allegiance of his subjects. Though often
violated, they were still claimed by the nobility and people; and as
no precedents were supposed valid that infringed them, they rather
acquired than lost authority, from the frequent attempts made against
them, in several ages, by regal and arbitrary power.

While Pembroke, by renewing and confirming the great charter, gave so
much satisfaction and security to the nation in general, he also
applied himself successfully to individuals. He wrote letters, in the
king's name, to all the malecontent barons; in which he represented to
them, that, whatever jealousy and animosity they might have
entertained against the late king, a young prince, the lineal heir of
their ancient monarchs, had now succeeded to the throne, without
succeeding either to the resentments or principles of his predecessor:
that the desperate expedient, which they had employed of calling in a
foreign potentate, had, happily for them, as well as for the nation,
failed of entire success; and it was still in their power, by a speedy
return to their duty, to restore the independence of the kingdom, and
to secure that liberty for which they so zealously contended: that as
all past offences of the barons were now buried in oblivion, they
ought, on their part, to forget their complaints against their late
sovereign, who, if he had been anywise blameable in his conduct, had
left to his son the salutary warning, to avoid the paths which had led
to such fatal extremities; and that, having now obtained a charter for
their liberties, it was their interest to show, by their conduct, that
this acquisition was not incompatible with their allegiance, and that
the rights of king and people, so far from being hostile and opposite,
might mutually support and sustain each other [e].
[FN [e] Rymer, vol i. p. 25. Brady's App. No. 143.]

These considerations, enforced by the character of honour and
constancy which Pembroke had ever maintained, had a mighty influence
on the barons; and most of them began secretly to negotiate with him,
and many of them openly returned to their duty. The diffidence which
Lewis discovered of their fidelity forwarded this general propension
towards the king; and when the French prince refused the government of
the castle of Hertford to Robert Fitz-Walter, who had been so active
against the late king, and who claimed that fortress as his property,
they plainly saw that the English were excluded from every trust, and
that foreigners had engrossed all the confidence and affection of
their new sovereign [f]. The excommunication, too, denounced by the
legate against all the adherents of Lewis, failed not, in the turn
which men's dispositions had taken, to produce a mighty effect upon
them; and they were easily persuaded to consider a cause as impious,
for which they had already entertained an unsurmountable aversion [g].
Though Lewis made a journey to France, and brought over succours from
that kingdom [h], he found, on his return, that his party was still
more weakened by the desertion of his English confederates, and that
the death of John had, contrary to his expectations, given an
incurable wound to his cause. The Earls of Salisbury, Arundel, and
Warrenne, together with William Mareschal, eldest son of the
protector, had embraced Henry's party, and every English nobleman was
plainly watching for an opportunity of returning to his allegiance.
Pembroke was so much strengthened by these accessions that he ventured
to invest Mountsorel; though, upon the approach of the Count de Perche
with the French army, he desisted from his enterprise, and raised the
siege [i]. The count, elated with this success, marched to Lincoln;
and being admitted into the town, he began to attack the castle, which
he soon reduced to extremity. The protector summoned all his forces
from every quarter, in order to relieve a place of such importance;
and he appeared so much superior to the French, that they shut
themselves up within the city, and resolved to act upon the defensive
[k]. But the garrison of the castle having received a strong
reinforcement, made a vigorous sally upon the besiegers; while the
English army, by concert, assaulted them in the same instant from
without, mounted the walls by scalade, and bearing down all
resistance, entered the city sword in hand. Lincoln was delivered
over to be pillaged; the French army was totally routed; the Count de
Perche, with only two persons more, was killed; but many of the chief
commanders, and about four hundred knights, were made prisoners by the
English [l]. So little blood was shed in this important action, which
decided the fate of one of the most powerful kingdoms in Europe; and
such wretched soldiers were those ancient barons, who yet were
unacquainted with every thing but arms!
[FN [f] M. Paris, p. 200, 202. [g] Ibid. p. 200. M. West. p. 277.
[h] Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 79. M. West. p. 277. [i] M. Paris, p.
203. [k] Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 81. [l] M. Paris, p.204, 205.
Chron. de Mailr. p. 195.]

Prince Lewis was informed of this fatal event while employed in the
siege of Dover, which was still valiantly defended against him by
Hubert de Burgh. He immediately retreated to London, the centre and
life of his party; and he there received intelligence of a new
disaster, which put an end to all his hopes. A French fleet, bringing
over a strong reinforcement, had appeared on the coast of Kent, where
they were attacked by the English, under the command of Philip
d'Albiney, and were routed with considerable loss. D'Albiney employed
a stratagem against them, which is said to have contributed to the
victory. Having gained the wind of the French, he came down upon them
with violence; and throwing in their faces a great quantity of
quicklime, which he purposely carried on board, he so blinded them,
that they were disabled from defending themselves [m].
[FN [m] M. Paris, p. 206. Ann. Waverl. p. 183. W. Heming. p. 563.
Trivet, p. 169. M. West. p. 277. Knyghton, p. 2428.]

After this second misfortune of the French, the English barons
hastened every where to make peace with the protector, and, by an easy
submission, to prevent those attainders to which they were exposed on
account of their rebellion. Lewis, whose cause was now totally
desperate, began to be anxious for the safety of his person, and was
glad, on any honourable conditions, to make his escape from a country
where he found every thing was now become hostile to him. He
concluded a peace with Pembroke, promised to evacuate the kingdom, and
only stipulated, in return, an indemnity to his adherents, and a
restitution of their honours and fortunes, together with the free and
equal enjoyment of those liberties which had been granted to the rest
of the nation [n]. Thus was happily ended a civil war, which seemed
to be founded on the most incurable hatred and jealousy, and had
threatened the kingdom with the most fatal consequences.
[FN [n] Rymer, vol. i. p. 221. M. Paris, p. 207. Chron. Dunst. vol.
i. p. 83. M. West. p. 278. Knyghton, p. 2429.]

[MN 1216. General pacification.]
The precautions which the King of France used in the conduct of this
whole affair are remarkable. He pretended that his son had accepted
of the offer from the English barons without his advice, and contrary
to his inclination: the armies sent to England were levied in Lewis's
name. When that prince came over to France for aid, his father
publicly refused to grant him any assistance, and would not so much as
admit him to his presence. Even after Henry's party acquired the
ascendant, and Lewis was in danger of falling into the hands of his
enemies, it was Blanche of Castile, his wife, not the king, his
father, who raised armies, and equipped fleets for his succour [o].
All these artifices were employed, not to satisfy the pope, for he had
too much penetration to be so easily imposed on; nor yet to deceive
the people, for they were too gross even for that purpose. They only
served for a colouring to Philip's cause; and, in public affairs, men
are often better pleased that the truth, though known to every body,
should be wrapped up under a decent cover, than if it were exposed in
open daylight to the eyes of all the world.
[FN [o] M. Paris, p. 256. Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 82.]

After the expulsion of the French, the prudence and equity of the
protector's subsequent conduct contributed to cure entirely those
wounds which had been made by intestine discord. He received the
rebellious barons into favour; observed strictly the terms of peace
which he had granted them; restored them to their possessions; and
endeavoured, by an equal behaviour, to bury all past animosities in
perpetual oblivion. The clergy alone, who had adhered to Lewis, were
sufferers in this revolution. As they had rebelled against their
spiritual sovereign, by disregarding the interdict and
excommunication, it was not in Pembroke's power to make any
stipulations in their favour; and Gualo, the legate, prepared to take
vengeance on them for their disobedience [p]. Many of them were
deposed; many suspended; some banished; and all who escaped punishment
made atonement for their offence by paying large sums to the legate,
who amassed an immense treasure by this expedient.
[FN [p] Brady's App. No. 144 Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 83.]

[MN Death of the protector.]
The Earl of Pembroke did not long survive the pacification, which had
been chiefly owing to his wisdom and valour [q]; and he was succeeded
in the government by Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester, and
Hubert de Burgh, the justiciary. The councils of the latter were
chiefly followed; and had he possessed equal authority in the kingdom
with Pembroke, he seemed to be every way worthy of filling the place
of that virtuous nobleman. [MN Some commotions.] But the licentious
and powerful barons, who had once broken the reins of subjection to
their prince, and had obtained, by violence, an enlargement of their
liberties and independence, could ill be restrained by laws under a
minority; and the people, no less than the king, suffered from their
outrages and disorders. They retained by force the royal castles,
which they had seized during the past convulsions, or which had been
committed to their custody by the protector [r]: they usurped the
king's demesnes [s]: they oppressed their vassals: they infested their
weaker neighbours: they invited all disorderly people to enter in
their retinue, and to live upon their lands: and they gave them
protection in all their robberies and extortions.
[FN [q] M. Paris, p. 210. [r] Trivet p. 174. [s] Rymer, vol. i. p.

No one was more infamous for these violent and illegal practices than
the Earl of Albemarle; who, though he had early returned to his duty,
and had been serviceable in expelling the French, augmented to the
utmost the general disorder, and committed outrages in all the
counties of the north. In order to reduce him to obedience, Hubert
seized an opportunity of getting possession of Rockingham Castle,
which Albemarle had garrisoned with his licentious retinue: but this
nobleman, instead of submitting, entered into a secret confederacy
with Fawkes de Breaute, Peter de Mauleon, and other barons, and both
fortified the castle of Biham for his defence, and made himself
master, by surprise, of that of Fotheringay. Pandolf, who was
restored to his legateship, was active in suppressing this rebellion;
and, with the concurrence of eleven bishops, he pronounced the
sentence of excommunication against Albemarle and his adherents [t]:
an army was levied: a scutage of ten shillings a knight's fee was
imposed on all the military tenants: Albemarle's associates gradually
deserted him: and he himself was obliged at last to sue for mercy. He
received a pardon, and was restored to his whole estate.
[FN [t] Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 102.]

This impolitic lenity, too frequent in those times, was probably the
result of a secret combination among the barons, who never could
endure to see the total ruin of one of their own order: but it
encouraged Fawkes de Breaute, a man whom King John had raised from a
low origin, to persevere in the course of violence to which he had
owed his fortune, and to set at nought all law and justice. When
thirty-five verdicts were at one time found against him, on account of
his violent expulsion of so many freeholders from their possessions,
he came to the court of justice with an armed force, seized the judge
who had pronounced the verdicts, and imprisoned him in Bedford castle.
He then levied open war against the king; but being subdued and taken
prisoner, his life was granted him; but his estate was confiscated,
and he was banished the kingdom [u].
[FN [u] Rymer, vol. i. p. 198. M. Paris, p. 221, 224. Ann. Waverl.
p. 188. Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 141, 146. M. West. p. 283.]

[MN 1222.] Justice was executed with greater severity against
disorders less premeditated, which broke out in London. A frivolous
emulation in a match of wrestling, between the Londoners on the one
hand, and the inhabitants of Westminster and those of the neighbouring
villages on the other, occasioned this commotion. The former rose in
a body, and pulled down some houses belonging to the Abbot of
Westminster: but this riot, which, considering the tumultuous
disposition familiar to that capital, would have been little regarded,
seemed to become more serious by the symptoms which then appeared of
the former attachment of the citizens to the French interest. The
populace, in the tumult, made use of the cry of war commonly employed
LEWIS! The justiciary made inquiry into the disorder; and finding one
Constantine Fitz-Arnulf to have been the ringleader, an insolent man,
who justified his crime in Hubert's presence, he proceeded against him
by martial law, and ordered him immediately to be hanged, without
trial or form of process. He also cut off the feet of some of
Constantine's accomplices [w].
[FN [w] M. Paris, p. 217, 218, 259. Ann. Waverl. p. 187. Chron.
Dunst. vol. i. p. 129.]

This act of power was complained of as an infringement of the great
charter: yet the justiciary, in a Parliament summoned at Oxford, (for
the great councils about this time began to receive that appellation,)
made no scruple to grant, in the king's name, a renewal and
confirmation of that charter. When the assembly made application to
the crown for this favour, as a law in those times seemed to lose its
validity if not frequently renewed, William de Briewere, one of the
council of regency, was so bold as to say openly, that those liberties
were extorted by force, and ought not to be observed: but he was
reprimanded by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and was not countenanced
by the king or his chief ministers [x]. A new confirmation was
demanded and granted two years after; and an aid, amounting to a
fifteenth of all moveables, was given by the Parliament, in return for
this indulgence. The king issued writs anew to the sheriffs,
enjoining the observance of the charter; but he inserted a remarkable
clause in the writs, that those who paid not the fifteenth should not
for the future be entitled to the benefit of those liberties [y].
[FN [x] M. West. p. 282. [y] Clause 9. H. 3. m. 9. and m. 6. d.]

The low state into which the crown was fallen made it requisite for a
good minister to be attentive to the preservation of the royal
prerogatives, as well as to the security of public liberty. Hubert
applied to the pope, who had always great authority in the kingdom,
and was now considered as its superior lord, and desired him to issue
a bull declaring the king to be of full age, and entitled to exercise
in person all the acts of royalty [z]. In consequence of this
declaration, the justiciary resigned into Henry's hands the two
important fortresses of the Tower and Dover Castle, which had been
intrusted to his custody; and he required the other barons to imitate
his example. They refused compliance: the Earls of Chester and
Albemarle, John Constable of Chester, John de Lacy, Brian de l'Isle,
and William de Cantel, with some others, even formed a conspiracy to
surprise London, and met in arms at Waltham with that intention: but
finding the king prepared for defence, they desisted from their
enterprise. When summoned to court in order to answer for their
conduct, they scrupled not to appear, and to confess the design: but
they told the king, that they had no bad intentions against his
person, but only against Hubert de Burgh, whom they were determined to
remove from his office [a]. They appeared too formidable to be
chastised; and they were so little discouraged by the failure of their
first enterprise, that they again met in arms at Leicester, in order
to seize the king, who then resided at Northampton: but Henry,
informed of their purpose, took care to be so well armed and attended
that the barons found it dangerous to make the attempt; and they sat
down and kept Christmas in his neighbourhood [b]. The archbishop and
the prelates, finding every thing tending towards a civil war,
interposed with their authority, and threatened the barons with the
sentence of excommunication, if they persisted in detaining the king's
castles. This menace at last prevailed: most of the fortresses were
surrendered; though the barons complained that Hubert's castles were
soon after restored to him, while the king still kept theirs in his
own custody. There are said to have been eleven hundred and fifteen
castles at that time in England [c].
[FN [z] M. Paris, p. 220. [a] Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 137. [b] M.
Paris, p. 221. Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 138. [c] Coke's Comment. on
Magna Charta, chap. 17.]

It must be acknowledged that the influence of the prelates and the
clergy was often of great service to the public. Though the religion
of that age can merit no better name than that of superstition, it
served to unite together a body of men who had great sway over the
people, and who kept the community from falling to pieces, by the
factions and independent power of the nobles; and what was of great
importance, it threw a mighty authority into the hands of men, who, by
their profession, were averse to arms and violence; who tempered by
their mediation the general disposition towards military enterprises;
and who still maintained, even amidst the shock of arms, those secret
links, without which it is impossible for human society to subsist.

Notwithstanding these intestine commotions in England, and the
precarious authority of the crown, Henry was obliged to carry on war
in France; and he employed to that purpose the fifteenth which had
been granted him by Parliament. Lewis VIII., who had succeeded his
father Philip, instead of complying with Henry's claim, who demanded
the restitution of Normandy, and the other provinces wrested from
England, made an irruption into Poictou, took Rochelle [d], after a
long siege, and seemed determined to expel the English from the few
provinces which still remained to them. Henry sent over his uncle,
the Earl of Salisbury, together with his brother, Prince Richard, to
whom he had granted the earldom of Cornwall, which had escheated to
the crown. Salisbury stopped the progress of Lewis's arms, and
retained the Poictevin and Gascon vassals in their allegiance: but no
military action of any moment was performed on either side. The Earl
of Cornwall, after two years' stay in Guienne, returned to England.
[FN [d] Rymer, vol. i. p. 269. Trivet, p. 179.]

[MN 1227.] This prince was nowise turbulent or factious in his
disposition: his ruling passion was to amass money, in which he
succeeded so well as to become the richest subject in Christendom: yet
his attention to gain threw him sometimes into acts of violence; and
gave disturbance to the government. There was a manor which had
formerly belonged to the earldom of Cornwall, but had been granted to
Waleran de Ties, before Richard had been invested with that dignity,
and while the earldom remained in the crown. Richard claimed this
manor, and expelled the proprietor by force: Waleran complained: the
king ordered his brother to do justice to the man, and restore him to
his rights: the earl said, that he would not submit to these orders,
till the cause should be decided against him by the judgment of his
peers: Henry replied, that it was first necessary to reinstate Waleran
in possession, before the cause could be tried; and he reiterated his
orders to the earl [e]. We may judge of the state of the government,
when this affair had nearly produced a civil war. The Earl of
Cornwall, finding Henry peremptory in his commands, associated himself
with the young Earl of Pembroke, who had married his sister, and who
was displeased on account of the king's requiring him to deliver up
some royal castles which were in his custody. These two malecontents
took into the confederacy the Earls of Chester, Warrenne, Gloucester,
Hereford, Warwick, and Ferrers, who were all disgusted on a like
account [f]. They assembled an army; which the king had not the power
or courage to resist; and he was obliged to give his brother
satisfaction, by grants of much greater importance than the manor
which had been the first ground of the quarrel [g].
[FN [e] M. Paris, p. 233. [f] M. Paris, p. 233. [g] Ibid.]

The character of the king, as he grew to man's estate, became every
day better known; and he was found in every respect unqualified for
maintaining a proper sway among those turbulent barons, whom the
feudal constitution subjected to his authority. Gentle, humane, and
merciful even to a fault, he seems to have been steady in no other
circumstance of his character; but to have received every impression
from those who surrounded him, and whom he loved, for the time, with
the most imprudent and most unreserved affection. Without activity or
vigour, he was unfit to conduct war: without policy or art, he was ill
fitted to maintain peace: his resentments, though hasty and violent,
were not dreaded, while he was found to drop them with such facility;
his friendships were little valued, because they were neither derived
from choice, nor maintained with constancy. A proper pageant of state
in a regular monarchy, where his ministers could have conducted all
affairs in his name and by his authority; but too feeble in those
disorderly times to sway a sceptre, whose weight depended entirely on
the firmness and dexterity of the hand which held it.

[MN Hugh de Burgh displaced.]
The ablest and most virtuous minister that Henry ever possessed was
Hubert de Burgh [h]; a man who had been steady to the crown in the
most difficult and dangerous times, and who yet showed no disposition,
in the height of his power, to enslave or oppress the people. The
only exceptionable part of his conduct is that which is mentioned by
Matthew Paris [i], if the fact be really true; and proceeded from
Hubert's advice, namely, the recalling publicly and the annulling of
the charter of forests, a concession so reasonable in itself, and so
passionately claimed both by the nobility and people: but it must be
confessed that this measure is so unlikely, both from the
circumstances of the times and character of the minister, that there
is reason to doubt of its reality, especially as it is mentioned by no
other historian. Hubert, while he enjoyed his authority, had an
entire ascendant over Henry, and was loaded with honours and favours
beyond any other subject. Besides acquiring the property of many
castles and manors, he married the eldest sister of the King of Scots,
was created Earl of Kent, and, by an unusual concession, was made
chief justiciary of England for life: [MN 1231.] yet Henry, in a
sudden caprice, threw off this faithful minister, and exposed him to
the violent persecutions of his enemies. Among other frivolous crimes
objected to him, he was accused of gaining the king's affections by
enchantment, and of purloining from the royal treasury a gem, which
had the virtue to render the wearer invulnerable, and of sending this
valuable curiosity to the Prince of Wales [k]. The nobility, who
hated Hubert on account of his zeal in resuming the rights and
possessions of the crown, no sooner saw the opportunity favourable,
than they inflamed the king's animosity against him, and pushed him to
seek the total ruin of his minister. Hubert took sanctuary in a
church: the king ordered him to be dragged from thence: he recalled
those orders: he afterwards renewed them: he was obliged by the clergy
to restore him to the sanctuary: he constrained him soon after to
surrender himself prisoner, and he confined him in the castle of
Devizes. Hubert made his escape, was expelled the kingdom, was again
received into favour, recovered a great share of the king's
confidence, but never showed any inclination to reinstate himself in
power and authority [l].
[FN [h] Ypod. Neustriae, p. 464. [i] P. 232. M. West. p. 216,
ascribes this counsel to Peter, Bishop of Winchester. [k] M. Paris,
p. 259. [l] Ibid. p. 259, 260, 261, 266. Chron. T. Wykes, p. 41, 42.
Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 220, 221. M. West. p. 291, 301.]

[MN Bishop of Winchester minister.]
The man who succeeded him in the government of the king and kingdom
was Peter, Bishop of Winchester, a Poictevin by birth, who had been
raised by the late king, and who was no less distinguished by his
arbitrary principles and violent conduct, than by his courage and
abilities. This prelate had been left by King John justiciary and
regent of the kingdom during an expedition which that prince made into
France; and his illegal administration was one chief cause of that
great combination among the barons which finally extorted from the
crown the charter of liberties, and laid the foundations of the
English constitution. Henry, though incapable, from his character, of
pursuing the same violent maxims which had governed his father, had
imbibed the same arbitrary principles; and, in prosecution of Peter's
advice, he invited over a great number of Poictevins, and other
foreigners, who, he believed, could more safely be trusted than the
English, and who seemed useful to counterbalance the great and
independent power of the nobility [m]. Every office and command was
bestowed on these strangers: they exhausted the revenues of the crown,
already too much impoverished [n]; they invaded the rights of the
people; and their insolence, still more provoking than their power,
drew on them the hatred and envy of all orders of men in the kingdom
[FN [m] M. Paris, p. 263. [n] Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 151. [o] M.
Paris, p. 268.]

[MN 1233.] The barons formed a combination against this odious
ministry, and withdrew from Parliament, on pretence of the danger to
which they were exposed from the machinations of the Poictevins. When
again summoned to attend, they gave for answer, that the king should
dismiss his foreigners, otherwise they would drive both him and them
out of the kingdom, and put the crown on another head more worthy to
wear it [p]: such was the style they used to their sovereign! They at
last came to Parliament, but so well attended, that they seemed in a
condition to prescribe laws to the king and ministry. Peter des
Roches, however, had in the interval found means of sowing dissension
among them, and of bringing over to his party the Earl of Cornwall, as
well as the Earls of Lincoln and Chester. The confederates were
disconcerted in their measures: Richard, Earl Mareschal, who had
succeeded to that dignity on the death of his brother William, was
chased into Wales; he thence withdrew into Ireland, where he was
treacherously murdered by the contrivance of the Bishop of Winchester
[q]. The estates of the more obnoxious barons were confiscated,
without legal sentence or trial by their peers [r], and were bestowed
with a profuse liberality on the Poictevins. Peter even carried his
insolence so far as to declare publicly, that the barons of England
must not pretend to put themselves on the same footing with those of
France; or assume the same liberties and privileges: the monarch in
the former country had a more absolute power than in the latter. It
had been more justifiable for him to have said, that men, so unwilling
to submit to the authority of laws, could with the worst grace claim
any shelter or protection from them.
[FN [p] Ibid. p. 265. [q] Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 219. [r] M.
Paris, p. 265.]

When the king at any time was checked in his illegal practices, and
when the authority of the great charter was objected to him, he was
wont to reply, "Why should I observe this charter, which is neglected
by all my grandees, both prelates and nobility?" It was very
reasonably said to him, "You ought, sir, to set them the example [s]."
[FN [s] Ibid. p. 609.]

So violent a ministry as that of the Bishop of Winchester could not be
of long duration; but its fall proceeded at last from the influence of
the church, not from the efforts of the nobles. Edmond, the primate,
came to court, attended by many of the other prelates, and represented
to the king the pernicious measures embraced by Peter des Roches, the
discontents of his people, the ruin of his affairs; and, after
requiring the dismission of the minister and his associates,
threatened him with excommunication in case of his refusal. Henry,
who knew that an excommunication so agreeable to the sense of the
people could not fail of producing the most dangerous effects, was
obliged to submit: foreigners were banished: the natives were restored
to their place in council [t]: the primate, who was a man of prudence,
and who took care to execute the laws, and observe the charter of
liberties, bore the chief sway in the government.
[FN [t] Ibid. p. 271, 272.]

[MN 1236. Jan.] But the English in vain flattered themselves that
they should be long free from the dominion of foreigners. [MN King's
partiality to foreigners.] The king having married Eleanor, daughter
of the Count of Provence [u], was surrounded by a great number of
strangers from that country, whom he caressed with the fondest
affection, and enriched by an imprudent generosity [w]. The Bishop of
Valence, a prelate of the house of Savoy, and maternal uncle to the
queen, was his chief minister, and employed every art to amass wealth
for himself and his relations. Peter of Savoy, a brother of the same
family, was invested in the honour of Richmond, and received the rich
wardship of Earl Warrenne: Boniface of Savoy was promoted to the see
of Canterbury. Many young ladies were invited over from Provence, and
married to the chief noblemen in England, who were the king's wards
[x]. And as the source of Henry's bounty began to fail, his Savoyard
ministry applied to Rome, and obtained a bull, permitting him to
resume all past grants; absolving him from the oath which he had taken
to maintain them; even enjoining him to make such a resumption, and
representing those grants as invalid, on account of the prejudice
which ensued from them to the Roman pontiff, in whom the superiority
of the kingdom was vested [y]. The opposition made to the intended
resumption prevented it from taking place; but the nation saw the
indignities to which the king was willing to submit, in order to
gratify the avidity of his foreign favourites. About the same time he
published in England the sentence of excommunication pronounced
against the Emperor Frederic, his brother-in-law [z]; and said, in
excuse, that, being the pope's vassal, he was obliged by his
allegiance to obey all the commands of his holiness. In this weak
reign, when any neighbouring potentate insulted the king's dominions,
instead of taking revenge for the injury, he complained to the pope as
his superior lord, and begged him to give protection to his vassal
[FN [u] Rymer, vol. i. p. 448. M. Paris, p. 286. [w] M. Paris, p.
236, 301, 305, 316, 541. M. West. p. 302, 304. [x] M. Paris, p. 484.
M. West. p. 338. [y] M. Paris, p. 295, 301. [z] Rymer, vol. i. p.
383. [a] Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 150.]

[MN 1236. Grievances.]
The resentment of the English barons rose high at the preference given
to foreigners; but no remonstrance or complaint could ever prevail on
the king to abandon them, or even to moderate his attachment towards
them. After the Provencals and Savoyards might have been supposed
pretty well satiated with the dignities and riches which they had
acquired, a new set of hungry foreigners were invited over, and shared
among them those favours, which the king ought in policy to have
conferred on the English nobility, by whom his government could have
been supported and defended. His mother, Isabella, who had been
unjustly taken by the late king from the Count de la Marche, to whom
she was betrothed, was no sooner mistress of herself, by the death of
her husband, than she married that nobleman [b]; [MN 1247.] and she
had borne him four sons, Guy, William, Geoffrey, and Aymer, whom she
sent over to England, in order to pay a visit to their brother. The
good-natured and affectionate disposition of Henry was moved at the
sight of such near relations; and he considered neither his own
circumstances, nor the inclinations of his people, in the honours and
riches which he conferred upon them [c]. Complaints rose as high
against the credit of the Gascon, as ever they had done against that
of the Poictevin and of the Savoyard favourites; and to a nation
prejudiced against them, all their measures appeared exceptionable and
criminal. Violations of the great charter were frequently mentioned;
and it is indeed more than probable that foreigners, ignorant of the
laws, and relying on the boundless affections of a weak prince, would,
in an age when a regular administration was not any where known, pay
more attention to their present interest than to the liberties of the
people. It is reported that the Poictevins and other strangers, when
the laws were at any time appealed to, in opposition to their
oppressions, scrupled not to reply, WHAT DID THE ENGLISH LAWS SIGNIFY
TO THEM? THEY MINDED THEM NOT. And as words are often more offensive
than actions, this open contempt of the English tended much to
aggravate the general discontent, and made every act of violence
committed by the foreigners appear not only an injury but an affront
to them [d].
[FN [b] Trivet, p. 174. [c] M. Paris, p. 491. M. West. p. 338.
Knyghton, p. 2436. [d] M. Paris, p. 566, 666. Ann. Waverl. p. 214.
Chron. Dunst. vol. i. p. 335.]

I reckon not among the violations of the great charter some arbitrary
exertions of prerogative, to which Henry's necessities pushed him, and
which, without producing any discontent, were uniformly continued by
all his successors till the last century. As the Parliament often
refused him supplies, and that in a manner somewhat rude and indecent
[e], he obliged his opulent subjects, particularly the citizens of
London, to grant him loans of money; and it is natural to imagine,
that the same want of economy which reduced him to the necessity of
borrowing, would prevent him from being very punctual in the repayment
[f]. He demanded benevolences, or pretended voluntary contributions,
from his nobility and prelates [g]. He was the first king of England
since the Conquest that could fairly be said to lie under the
restraint of law; and he was also the first that practised the
dispensing power, and employed the clause of NON OBSTANTE in his

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