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The History of England, Volume I by David Hume

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spoil on the low countries, they usually made a hasty retreat into
their mountains, where they were sheltered from the pursuit of their
enemies, and were ready to seize the first favourable opportunity of
renewing their depredations. Griffith, the reigning prince, had
greatly distinguished himself in those incursions; and his name had
become so terrible to the English, that Harold found he could do
nothing more acceptable to the public, and more honourable for
himself, than the suppressing of so dangerous an enemy. He formed the
plan of an expedition against Wales; and having prepared some light-
armed foot to pursue the natives into their fastnesses, some cavalry
to scour the open country, and a squadron of ships to attack the
seacoast, he employed at once all these forces against the Welsh,
prosecuted his advantages with vigour, made no intermission in his
assaults, and at last reduced the enemy to such distress, that, in
order to prevent their total destruction, they made a sacrifice of
their prince, whose head they cut off and sent to Harold; and they
were content to receive as their sovereigns two Welsh noblemen
appointed by Edward to rule over them. The other incident was no less
honourable to Harold.

Tosti, brother of this nobleman, who had been created Duke of
Northumberland, being of a violent tyrannical temper, had acted with
such cruelty and injustice, that the inhabitants rose in rebellion,
and chased him from his government. Morcar and Edwin, two brothers,
who possessed great power in those parts, and who were grandsons of
the great Duke Leofric, concurred in the insurrection; and the former,
being elected duke, advanced with an army to oppose Harold, who was
commissioned by the king to reduce and chastise the Northumbrians.
Before the armies came to action, Morcar, well acquainted with the
generous disposition of the English commander, endeavoured to justify
his own conduct. He represented to Harold, that Tosti had behaved in
a manner unworthy of the station to which he was advanced, and no one,
not even a brother, could support such tyranny without participating,
in some degree, of the infamy attending it; that the Northumbrians,
accustomed to a legal administration, and regarding it as their birth-
right, were willing to submit to the king, but required a governor who
would pay regard to their rights and privileges; that they had been
taught by their ancestors, that death was preferable to servitude, and
had taken the field, determined to perish rather than suffer a renewal
of those indignities to which they had so long been exposed; and they
trusted that Harold, on reflection, would not defend in another that
violent conduct, from which he himself, in his own government, had
always kept at so great a distance. This vigorous remonstrance was
accompanied with such a detail of facts, so well supported, that
Harold found it prudent to abandon his brother's cause; and returning
to Edward, he persuaded him to pardon the Northumbrians, and to
confirm Morcar in the government. He even married the sister of that
nobleman [b]; and by his interest procured Edwin, the younger brother,
to be elected into the government of Mercia. Tosti in rage departed
the kingdom, and took shelter in Flanders with Earl Baldwin, his
[FN [b] Order Vitalis, p. 492.]

By this marriage Harold broke all measures with the Duke of Normandy;
and William clearly perceived that he could no longer rely on the
oaths and promises which he had extorted from him. But the English
nobleman was now in such a situation, that he deemed it no longer
necessary to dissemble. He had in his conduct towards the
Northumbrians, given such a specimen of his moderation as had gained
him the affections of his countrymen. He saw that almost all England
was engaged in his interests; while he himself possessed the
government of Wessex, Morcar that of Northumberland, and Edward that
of Mercia. He now openly aspired to the succession; and insisted,
that since it was necessary, by the confession of all, to set aside
the royal family, on account of the imbecility of Edgar, the sole
surviving heir, there was no one as capable of filling the throne as a
nobleman of great power, of mature age, of long experience, of
approved courage and abilities, who, being a native of the kingdom,
would effectually secure it against the dominion and tyranny of
foreigners. Edward, broken with age and infirmities, saw the
difficulties too great for him to encounter; and though his inveterate
prepossession kept him from seconding the pretensions of Harold, he
took but feeble and irresolute steps for securing the succession to
the Duke of Normandy [c]. While he continued in this uncertainty he
was surprised by sickness, which brought him to his grave, on the
fifth of January 1066, in the sixty-fifth year of his age, and twenty-
fifth of his reign.
[FN [c] See note [F] at the end of the volume.]

This prince, to whom the monks gave the title of Saint and Confessor,
was the last of the Saxon line that ruled in England. Though his
reign was peaceable and fortunate, he owed his prosperity less to his
own abilities than to the conjunctures of the times. The Danes,
employed in other enterprises, attempted not those incursions which
had been so troublesome to all his predecessors, and fatal to some of
them. The facility of his disposition made him acquiesce under the
government of Godwin and his son Harold; and the abilities, as well as
the power, of these noblemen enabled them, while they were entrusted
with authority, to preserve domestic peace and tranquillity. The most
commendable circumstance of Edward's government was his attention to
the administration of justice, and his compiling, for that purpose, a
body of laws, which he collected from the laws of Ethelbert, Ina, and
Alfred. This compilation, though now lost, (for the laws that pass
under Edward's name were composed afterwards [d],) was long the object
of affection to the English nation.
[FN [d] Spellm. in verbo BELLIVA.]

Edward the Confessor was the first that touched for the king's evil:
the opinion of his sanctity procured belief to this cure among the
people: his successors regarded it as a part of their state and
grandeur to uphold the same opinion. It has been continued down to
our time; and the practice was first dropped by the present royal
family, who observed that it could no longer give amazement even to
the populace, and was attended with ridicule in the eyes of all men of

[MN Harold. 1066. January.]
Harold had so well prepared matters before the death of Edward, that
he immediately stepped into the vacant throne; and his accession was
attended with as little opposition and disturbance, as if he had
succeeded by the most undoubted hereditary title. The citizens of
London were his zealous partisans: the bishops and clergy had adopted
his cause; and all the powerful nobility, connected with him by
alliance or friendship, willingly seconded his pretensions. The title
of Edgar Atheling was scarcely mentioned; much less the claim of the
Duke of Normandy: and Harold, assembling his partisans, received the
crown from their hands, without waiting for the free deliberation of
the states, or regularly submitting the question to their
determination [e]. If any were averse to this measure, they were
obliged to conceal their sentiments; and the new prince, taking a
general silence for consent, and founding his title on the supposed
suffrages of the people, which appeared unanimous, was, on the day
immediately succeeding Edward's death, crowned and anointed king, by
Aldred, Archbishop of York. The whole nation seemed joyful to
acquiesce in his elevation.
[FN [e] G. Pict. p. 196. Ypod. Neust. p. 436. Order. Vitalis, p.
492. M. West. p. 221 W. Malm. p. 93. Ingulph. p. 68. Brompton, p.
957. Knyghton, p. 2339. H. Hunt. p. 210. Many of the historians
say, that Harold was regularly elected by the states: some, that
Edward left him his successor by will.]

The first symptoms of danger which the king discovered came from
abroad, and from his own brother Tosti, who had submitted to a
voluntary banishment in Flanders. Enraged at the successful ambition
of Harold, to which he himself had fallen a victim, he filled the
court of Baldwin with complaints of the injustice which he had
suffered; he engaged the interest of that family against his brother:
he endeavoured to form intrigues with some of the discontented nobles
in England: he sent his emissaries to Norway, in order to rouse to
arms the freebooters of that kingdom, and to excite the hopes of
reaping advantage from the unsettled state of affairs on the
usurpation of the new king: and that he might render the combination
more formidable, he made a journey to Normandy, in expectation that
the duke, who had married Matilda, another daughter of Baldwin, would,
in revenge of his own wrongs, as well as those of Tosti, second, by
his counsels and forces, the projected invasion of England [f].
[FN [f] Order. Vitalis, p. 492.]

The Duke of Normandy, when he first received intelligence of Harold's
intrigues and accession, had been moved to the highest pitch of
indignation; but that he might give the better colour to his
pretensions, he sent an embassy to England, upbraiding that prince
with his breach of faith, and summoning him to resign immediately
possession of the kingdom. Harold replied to the Norman ambassadors,
that the oath with which he was reproached had been extorted by the
well-grounded fear of violence, and could never, for that reason, be
regarded as obligatory: that he had had no commission either from the
late king, or the states of England, who alone could dispose of the
crown, to make any tender of the succession to the Duke of Normandy;
and if he, a private person, had assumed so much authority, and had
even voluntarily sworn to support the duke's pretensions, the oath was
unlawful, and it was his duty to seize the first opportunity of
breaking it: that he had obtained the crown by the unanimous suffrages
of the people; and should prove himself totally unworthy of their
favour, did he not strenuously maintain those national liberties, with
whose protection they had entrusted him: and that the duke, if he made
any attempt by force of arms, should experience the power of an united
nation, conducted by a prince, who, sensible of the obligations
imposed on him by his royal dignity, was determined that the same
moment should put a period to his life and to his government [g].
[FN [g] W. Malm. p. 99. Higden, p. 285. Matth. West. p. 222. De
Gest. Angl. ancento auctore, p. 331.]

This answer was no other than William expected; and he had previously
fixed his resolution of making an attempt upon England. Consulting
only his courage, his resentment, and his ambition, he overlooked all
the difficulties inseparable from an attack on a great kingdom by such
inferior force, and he saw only the circumstances which would
facilitate his enterprise. He considered that England, ever since the
accession of Canute, had enjoyed profound tranquillity during a period
of over fifty years; and it would require time for its soldiers,
enervated by long peace, to learn discipline, and its generals
experience. He knew that it was entirely unprovided with fortified
towns, by which it could prolong the war; but must venture its whole
fortune in one decisive action against a veteran enemy, who, being
once master of the field, would be in a condition to overrun the
kingdom. He saw that Harold, though he had given proofs of vigour and
bravery, had newly mounted a throne, which he had acquired by faction,
from which he had excluded a very ancient royal family, and which was
likely to totter under him by its own instability, much more if shaken
by any violent external impulse; and he hoped, that the very
circumstance of his crossing the sea, quitting his own country, and
leaving himself no hopes of retreat, as it would astonish the enemy by
the boldness of the enterprise, would inspirit his soldiers by
despair, and rouse them to sustain the reputation of the Norman arms.

The Normans, as they had long been distinguished by valour among all
the European nations, had at this time attained to the highest pitch
of military glory. Besides acquiring by arms such a noble territory
in France, besides defending it against continual attempts of the
French monarch and all his neighbours, besides exerting many acts of
vigour under their present sovereign; they had, about this very time,
revived their ancient fame, by the most hazardous exploits, and the
most wonderful successes in the other extremity of Europe. A few
Norman adventurers in Italy had acquired such an ascendant, not only
over the Italians and Greeks, but the Germans and Saracens, that
they expelled those foreigners, procured to themselves ample
establishments, and laid the foundation of the opulent kingdom of
Naples and Sicily [h]. These enterprises of men, who were all of them
vassals in Normandy, many of them banished for faction and rebellion,
excited the ambition of the haughty William, who disdained, after such
examples of fortune and valour, to be deterred from making an attack
on a neighbouring country, where he could be supported by the whole
force of his principality.
[FN [h] Gul. Gemet. lib. 7. cap. 30.]

The situation also of Europe inspired William with hopes that, besides
his brave Normans he might employ against England the flower of the
military force which was dispersed in all the neighbouring states.
France, Germany, and the Low Countries, by the progress of the feudal
institutions, were divided and subdivided into many principalities and
baronies; and the possessors, enjoying the civil jurisdiction within
themselves, as well as the right of arms, acted, in many respects, as
independent sovereigns, and maintained their properties and
privileges, less by the authority of laws than by their own force and
valour. A military spirit had universally diffused itself throughout
Europe; and the several leaders, whose minds were elevated by their
princely situation, greedily embraced the most hazardous enterprises;
and being accustomed to nothing from their infancy but recitals of the
success attending wars and battles, they were prompted by a natural
ambition to imitate those adventurers, which they heard so much
celebrated, and which were so much exaggerated by the credulity of the
age. United, however loosely, by their duty to one superior lord, and
by their connexions with the great body of the community to which they
belonged, they desired to spread their fame each beyond his own
district; and in all assemblies, whether instituted for civil
deliberations, for military expeditions, or merely for show and
entertainment, to outshine each other by the reputation of strength
and prowess. Hence their genius for chivalry; hence their impatience
of peace and tranquillity; and hence their readiness to embark in any
dangerous enterprise, how little soever interested in its failure or

William, by his power, his courage, and his abilities, had long
maintained a pre-eminence among those haughty chieftains; and every
one who desired to signalize himself by his address in military
exercises, or in valour in action, had been ambitious of acquiring a
reputation in the court and in the armies of Normandy. Entertained
with that hospitality and courtesy which distinguished the age, they
had formed attachments with the prince, and greedily attended to the
prospects of the signal glory and elevation which he promised them in
return for their concurrence in an expedition against England. The
more grandeur there appeared in the attempt, the more it suited their
romantic spirit; the fame of the intended invasion was already
diffused every where; multitudes crowded to tender to the Duke their
service, with that of their vassals and retainers [i]; and William
found less difficulty in completing his levies than in choosing the
most veteran forces, and in rejecting the offers of those who were
impatient to acquire fame under so renowned a leader.
[FN [i] Gul. Pictavensis, p. 198.]

Besides these advantages, which William owed to his personal valour
and good conduct, he was indebted to fortune for procuring him some
assistance, and also for removing many obstacles which it was natural
for him to expect in an undertaking, in which all his neighbours were
so deeply interested. Conan, Count of Britany, was his mortal enemy;
in order to throw a damp upon the duke's enterprise, he chose this
conjuncture for reviving his claim to Normandy itself; and he required
that, in case of William's success against England the possession of
that duchy should devolve to him [k]. But Conan died suddenly after
making this demand; and Hoel, his successor, instead of adopting the
malignity, or, more properly speaking, the prudence of his
predecessor, zealously seconded the duke's views and sent his eldest
son, Alain Fergant, to serve under him with a body of five thousand
Bretons. The counts of Anjou and of Flanders encouraged their
subjects to engage in the expedition; and even the court of France,
though it might justly fear the aggrandizement of so dangerous a
vassal, pursued not its interests on this occasion with sufficient
vigour and resolution. Philip I., the reigning monarch, was a minor;
and William, having communicated his project to the council, having
desired assistance, and offered to do homage, in case of his success,
for the crown of England, was indeed openly ordered to lay aside all
thoughts of the enterprise; but the Earl of Flanders, his father-in-
law, being at the head of the regency, favoured underhand his levies,
and secretly encouraged the adventurous nobility to enlist under the
standard of the Duke of Normandy.
[FN [k] Gul Gemet. lib. 7. cap. 33.]

The Emperor, Henry IV., besides openly giving all his vassals
permission to embark in this expedition, which so much engaged the
attention of Europe, promised his protection to the duchy of Normandy
during the absence of the prince, and thereby enabled him to employ
his whole force in the invasion of England [l]. But the most
important ally whom William gained by his negotiations was the pope,
who had a mighty influence over the ancient barons, no less devout in
their religious principles, than valorous in their military
enterprises. The Roman pontiff, after an insensible progress, during
several ages of darkness and ignorance, began now to lift his head
openly above all the princes of Europe; to assume the office of a
mediator, or even an arbiter, in the quarrels of the greatest
monarchs; to interpose in all secular affairs; and to obtrude his
dictates as sovereign laws on his obsequious disciples. It was a
sufficient motive to Alexander II., the reigning pope, for embracing
William's quarrel, that he alone had made an appeal to his tribunal,
and rendered him umpire of the dispute between him and Harold; but
there were other advantages which that pontiff foresaw must result
from the conquest of England by the Norman arms. That kingdom, though
at first converted by Romish missionaries, though it had afterwards
advanced some farther steps towards subjection to Rome, maintained
still a considerable independence in its ecclesiastical
administration; and forming a world within itself, entirely separated
from the rest of Europe, it had hitherto proved inaccessible to those
exorbitant claims which supported the grandeur of the papacy.
Alexander therefore hoped, that the French and Norman barons, if
successful in their enterprise, might import into that country a more
devoted reverence to the holy see, and bring the English churches to a
nearer conformity with those of the continent. He declared
immediately in favour of William's claim; pronounced Harold a perjured
usurper; denounced excommunication against him and his adherents; and
the more to encourage the Duke of Normandy in his enterprise, he sent
him a consecrated banner, and a ring with one of St. Peter's hairs in
it [m]. Thus were al1 the ambition and violence of that invasion
covered over safely with the broad mantle of religion.
[FN [l] Gul. Pict. p. 198. [m] Baker, p. 22. edit. 1684.]

The greatest difficulty which William had to encounter in his
preparations, arose from his own subjects in Normandy. The states of
the duchy were assembled at Lislebonne; and supplies being demanded
for the intended enterprise, which promised so much glory and
advantage to their country, there appeared a reluctance in many
members, both to grant sums so much beyond the common measure of taxes
in that age, and to set a precedent of performing their military
service at a distance from their own country. The duke, finding it
dangerous to solicit them in a body, conferred separately with the
richest individuals in the province; and beginning with those on whose
affections he most relied, he gradually engaged all of them to advance
the sums demanded. The Count of Longueville seconded him in his
negotiation; as did the Count of Mortaigne, Odo, Bishop of Baieux, and
especially William Fitz-Osborne, Count of Breteuil, and constable of
the duchy. Every person, when he himself was once engaged,
endeavoured to bring over others; and at last the states themselves,
after stipulating that this concession should be no precedent, voted
that they would assist their prince to the utmost in his intended
enterprise [n].
[FN [n] Camden. Introd. ad Britan. p. 212. 2nd edit. Gibs. Verstegan,
p. 173.]

William had now assembled a fleet of three thousand vessels, great and
small [o], and had selected an army of sixty thousand men from among
those numerous supplies which from every quarter solicited to be
received into his service. The camp bore a splendid yet a martial
appearance, from the discipline of the men, the beauty and vigour of
the horse, the lustre of the arms, and the accoutrements of both; but
above all, from the high names of nobility who engaged under the
banners of the Duke of Normandy. The most celebrated were Eustace,
Count of Boulogne, Aimeri de Thouars, Hugh d'Estaples, William
d'Evreux, Geoffrey de Routrou, Roger de Beaumont, William de Warenne,
Roger de Montgomery, Hugh de Grantmesnil, Charles Martel, and Geoffrey
Giffard [p]. To these bold chieftains William held up the spoils of
England as the prize of their valour; and pointing to the opposite
shore, called to them, that THERE was the field on which they must
erect trophies to their name, and fix their establishments.
[FN [o] Gul. Gemet. lib. 7. cap. 34. [p] Order. Vitalis, p. 501.]

While he was making these mighty preparations, the duke, that he
might increase the number of Harold's enemies, excited the inveterate
rancour of Tosti, and encouraged him, in concert with Harold Halfagar,
King of Norway, to infest the coasts of England. Tosti, having
collected about sixty vessels in the ports of Flanders, put to sea;
and after committing some depredations on the south and east coasts,
he sailed to Northumberland, and was there joined by Halfagar, who
came over with a great armament of three hundred sail. The combined
fleets entered the Humber, and disembarked the troops, who began to
extend their depredations on all sides; when Morcar, Earl of
Northumberland, and Edwin, Earl of Mercia, the king's brother-in-law,
having hastily collected some forces, ventured to give them battle.
The action ended in the defeat and flight of these two noble men.

Harold, informed of this defeat, hastened with an army to the
protection of his people; and expressed the utmost ardour to show
himself worthy of the crown which had been conferred upon him. This
prince, though he was not sensible of the full extent of his danger,
from the great combination against him, had employed every art of
popularity to acquire the affections of the public; and he gave so
many proofs of an equitable and prudent administration that the
English found no reason to repent the choice which they had made of a
sovereign. They flocked from all quarters to join his standard; and
as soon as he reached the enemy at Standford, he found himself in a
condition to give them battle. [MN Sept. 25.] The action was bloody;
but the victory was decisive on the side of Harold, and ended in the
total rout of the Norwegians, together with the death of Tosti and
Halfagar. Even the Norwegian fleet fell into the hands of Harold; who
had the generosity to give Prince Olave, the son of Halfagar, his
liberty, and allow him to depart with twenty vessels. But he had
scarcely time to rejoice for his victory, when he received
intelligence that the Duke of Normandy was landed with a great army in
the south of England.

The Norman fleet and army had been assembled early in the summer, at
the mouth of the small river Dive, and all the troops had been
instantly embarked; but the winds proved long contrary, and detained
them in that harbour. The authority, however, of the duke, the good
discipline maintained among the seamen and soldiers, and the great
care in supplying them with provisions, had prevented any disorder;
when at last the wind became favourable, and enabled them to sail
along the coast, till they reached St. Valori. There were, however,
several vessels lost in this short passage; and as the wind again
proved contrary, the army began to imagine that heaven had declared
against them, and that, notwithstanding the pope's benediction, they
were destined to certain destruction. These bold warriors, who
despised real dangers, were very subject to the dread of imaginary
ones; and many of them began to mutiny, some of them even to desert
their colours; when the duke, in order to support their drooping
hopes, ordered a procession to be made with the relics of St. Valori
[q], and prayers to be said for more favourable weather. The wind
instantly changed; and as this incident happened on the eve of the
feast of St. Michael, the tutelar saint of Normandy, the soldiers,
fancying they saw the hand of Heaven in all these concurring
circumstances, set out with the greatest alacrity: they met with no
opposition on their passage: a great fleet, which Harold has
assembled, and which had cruized all summer off the Isle of Wight, had
been dismissed, on his receiving false intelligence that William,
discouraged by contrary winds and other accidents, had laid aside his
preparations. The Norman armament, proceeding in great order, arrived
without any material loss, at Pevensey, in Sussex; and the army
quietly disembarked. The duke himself, as he leaped on shore,
happened to stumble and fall; but had the presence of mind, it is
said, to turn the omen to his advantage, by calling aloud that he had
taken possession of the country. And a soldier, running to a
neighbouring cottage, plucked some thatch, which, as if giving seisin
of the kingdom, he presented to his general. The joy and alacrity of
William and his whole army were so great, that they were nowise
discouraged, even when they heard of Harold's great victory over the
Norwegians; they seemed rather to wait with impatience for the arrival
of the enemy.
[FN [q] Higden, p. 285. Order. Vitalis, p. 500. Matth. Paris, edit.
Paris., anno 1644, p. 2.]

The victory of Harold, though great and honourable, had proved in the
main prejudicial to his interests, and may be regarded as the
immediate cause of his ruin. He lost many of his bravest officers and
soldiers in the action: and he disgusted the rest by refusing to
distribute the Norwegian spoils among them: a conduct which was little
agreeable to his usual generosity of temper; but which his desire of
sparing the people, in the war that impended over him from the Duke of
Normandy, had probably occasioned. He hastened, by quick marches, to
reach this new invader; but though he was reinforced at London and
other places with fresh troops, he found himself also weakened by the
desertion of his old soldiers, who, from fatigue and discontent,
secretly withdrew from their colours. His brother Gurth, a man of
bravery and conduct, began to entertain apprehensions of the event;
and remonstrated with the king, that it would be better policy to
prolong the war; at least, to spare his own person in the action. He
urged to him, that the desperate situation of the Duke of Normandy
made it requisite for that prince to bring matters to a speedy
decision, and put his whole fortune on the issue of a battle; but that
the King of England, in his own country, beloved by his subjects,
provided with every supply, had more certain and less dangerous means
of ensuring to himself the victory; that the Norman troops, elated on
the one hand with the highest hopes, and seeing, on the other, no
resource in case of a discomfiture, would fight to the last extremity;
and being the flower of all the warriors of the continent, must be
regarded as formidable to the English: that if their first fire, which
is always the most dangerous, were allowed to languish for want of
action; if they were harassed with small skirmishes, straitened in
provisions, and fatigued with the bad weather and deep roads during
the winter season which was approaching, they must fall an easy and a
bloodless prey to their enemy: that if a general action were delayed,
the English, sensible of the imminent danger to which their
properties, as well as liberties, were exposed from those rapacious
invaders, would hasten from all quarters to his assistance, and would
render his army invincible: that at least, if he thought it necessary
to hazard a battle, he ought not to expose his own person, but
reserve, in case of disastrous accidents, some resource to the liberty
and independence of the kingdom: and that having once been so
unfortunate as to be constrained to swear, and that upon the holy
relics, to support the pretensions of the Duke of Normandy, it were
better that the command of the army should be intrusted to another,
who not being bound by those sacred ties, might give the soldiers more
assured hopes of a prosperous issue to the combat.

Harold was deaf to all these remonstrances: elated with his past
prosperity, as well as stimulated by his native courage, he resolved
to give battle in person; and for that purpose he drew near to the
Normans, who had removed their camp and fleet to Hastings, where they
fixed their quarters. He was so confident of success, that he sent a
message to the duke, promising him a sum of money if he would depart
the kingdom without effusion of blood: but his offer was rejected with
disdain; and William, not to be behind with his enemy in vaunting,
sent him a message by some monks, requiring him either to resign the
kingdom, or to hold it of him in fealty, or to submit their cause to
the arbitration of the pope, or to fight him in single combat. Harold
replied, that the God of battles would soon be the arbiter of all
their .differences [r].
[FN [r] Higden, p. 286.]

[MN 14th October.] The English and Normans now prepared themselves
for this important decision; but the aspect of things on the night
before the battle was very different in the two camps. The English
spent the night in riot, and jollity, and disorder; the Normans in
silence, and in prayer, and in the other functions of their religion
[s]. On the morning, the duke called together the most considerable
of his commanders, and made them a speech suitable to the occasion.
He represented to them, that the event which they and he had long
wished for was approaching; the whole fortune of the war now depended
on their swords, and would be decided in a single action: that never
army had greater motives for exerting a vigorous courage, whether they
considered the prize which would attend their victory, or the
inevitable destruction which must ensue upon their discomfiture: that
if their martial and veteran bands could once break those raw
soldiers, who had rashly dared to approach them, they conquered a
kingdom at one blow, and were justly entitled to all its possessions
as the reward of their prosperous valour: that, on the contrary, if
they remitted in the least their wonted prowess, an enraged enemy hung
upon their rear, the sea met them in their retreat, and an ignominious
death was the certain punishment of their imprudent cowardice: that by
collecting so numerous and brave a host, he had ensured every human
means of conquest; and the commander of the enemy, by his criminal
conduct, had given him just cause to hope for the favour of the
Almighty, in whose hands alone lay the event of wars and battles: and
that a perjured usurper, anathematized by the sovereign pontiff, and
conscious of his own breach of faith, would be struck with terror on
their appearance, and would prognosticate to himself that fate which
his multiplied crimes had so justly merited [t]. The duke next
divided his army into three lines: the first, led by Montgomery,
consisted of archers and light-armed infantry: the second, commanded
by Martel, was composed of his bravest battalions, heavy armed, and
ranged in close order: his cavalry, at whose head he placed himself,
formed the third line; and were so disposed, that they stretched
beyond the infantry, and flanked each wing of the army [u]. He
ordered the signal of battle to be given; and the whole army, moving
at once, and singing the hymn or song of Roland, the famous peer of
Charlemagne [w], advanced, in order, and with alacrity, towards the
[FN [s] W. Malm. p. 101. De Gest. Angl. p. 332. [t] H. Hunt. p. 368.
Brompton p. 959. Gul. Pict. p. 201. [u] Gul. Pict. p. 201. Order.
Vital. p. 501. [w] W. Malm. p. 101. Higden, p. 286. Matth. West. p.
223. Du Cange's Glossary, in verbo CANTILENA ROLANDI.]

Harold had seized the advantage of a rising ground, and having
likewise drawn some trenches to secure his flanks, he resolved to
stand upon the defensive, and to avoid all action with the cavalry, in
which he was inferior. The Kentish men were placed in the van, a post
which they had always claimed as their due: the Londoners guarded the
standard: and the king himself, accompanied by his two valiant
brothers, Gurth and Leofwin, dismounting, placed himself at the head
of his infantry, and expressed his resolution to conquer or to perish
in the action. The first attack of the Normans was desperate, but was
received with equal valour by the English; and after a furious combat,
which remained long undecided, the former, overcome by the difficulty
of the ground, and hard pressed by the enemy, began first to relax
their vigour, then to retreat; and confusion was spreading among the
ranks, when William, who found himself on the brink of destruction,
hastened with a select band to the relief of his dismayed forces. His
presence restored the action; the English were obliged to retire with
loss; and the duke, ordering his second line to advance, renewed the
attack with fresh forces, and with redoubled courage. Finding that
the enemy, aided by the advantage of ground, and animated by the
example of their prince, still made a vigorous resistance, he tried a
stratagem, which was very delicate in its management, but which seemed
advisable in his desperate situation, where, if he gained not a
decisive victory, he was totally undone: he commanded his troops to
make a hasty retreat, and to allure the enemy from their ground by the
appearance of flight. The artifice succeeded against those
inexperienced soldiers, who, heated by the action, and sanguine in
their hopes, precipitately followed the Normans into the plain.
William gave orders, that at once the infantry should face about upon
their pursuers, and the cavalry make an assault upon their wings, and
both of them pursue the advantage which the surprise and terror of the
enemy must give them in that critical and decisive moment. The
English were repulsed with great slaughter, and driven back to the
hill; where, being rallied by the bravery of Harold, they were able,
notwithstanding their loss, to maintain their post, and continue the
combat. The duke tried the same stratagem a second time with the same
success; but even after this double advantage, he still found a great
body of the English, who, maintaining themselves in firm array, seemed
determined to dispute the victory to the last extremity. He ordered
his heavy-armed infantry to make an assault upon them; while his
archers placed behind, should gall the enemy, who were exposed by the
situation of the ground, and who were intent on defending themselves
against the swords and spears of the assailants. By this disposition
he at last prevailed: Harold was slain by an arrow while he was
combating with great bravery at the head of his men: his two brothers
shared the same fate: and the English, discouraged by the fall of
those princes, gave ground on all sides, and were pursued with great
slaughter by the victorious Normans. A few troops, however, of the
vanquished had still the courage to turn upon their pursuers; and
attacking them in deep and miry ground, obtained some revenge for the
slaughter and dishonour of the day. But the appearance of the duke
obliged them to seek their safety by flight; and darkness saved them
from any farther pursuit by the enemy.

Thus was gained by William, Duke of Normandy, the great and decisive
victory of Hastings, after a battle which was fought from morning till
sunset, and which seemed worthy, by the heroic valour displayed by
both armies, and by both commanders, to decide the fate of a mighty
kingdom. William had three horses killed under him; and there fell
near fifteen thousand men on the side of the Normans: the loss was
still more considerable on that of the vanquished; besides the death
of the king and his two brothers. The dead body of Harold was brought
to William, and was generously restored without ransom to his mother.
The Norman army left not the field of battle without giving thanks to
Heaven in the most solemn manner for their victory; and the prince,
having refreshed his troops, prepared to push to the utmost his
advantage against the divided, dismayed, and discomfited English.




The government of the Germans, and that of all the northern nations,
who established themselves on the ruins of Rome, was always extremely
free; and those fierce people, accustomed to independence and inured
to arms, were more guided by persuasion than authority, in the
submission which they paid to their princes. The military despotism,
which had taken place in the Roman empire, and which, previously to
the irruption of those conquerors, had sunk the genius of men, and
destroyed every noble principle of science and virtue, was unable to
resist the vigorous efforts of a free people; and Europe, as from a
new epoch, rekindled her ancient spirit, and shook off the base
servitude to arbitrary will and authority under which she had so long
laboured. The free constitutions then established, however impaired
by the encroachments of succeeding princes, still preserve an air of
independence and legal administration, which distinguish the European
nations; and if that part of the globe maintain sentiments of liberty,
honour, equity and valour, superior to the rest of mankind, it owes
these advantages chiefly to the seeds implanted by those generous

[MN First Saxon government.]
The Saxons, who subdued Britain, as they enjoyed great liberty in
their own country, obstinately retained that invaluable possession in
their new settlement; and they imported into this island the same
principles of independence which they had inherited from their
ancestors. The chieftains (for such they were, more properly than
kings or princes) who commanded them in those military expeditions,
still possessed a very limited authority; and as the Saxons
exterminated, rather than subdued, the ancient inhabitants, they were
indeed transplanted into a new territory, but preserved unaltered all
their civil and military institutions. The language was pure Saxon;
even the names of places, which often remain while the tongue entirely
changes, were almost all affixed by the conquerors; the manners and
customs were wholly German; and the same picture of a fierce and bold
liberty, which is drawn by the masterly pencil of Tacitus, will suit
those founders of the English government. The king, so far from being
invested with arbitrary power, was only considered as the first among
the citizens; his authority depended more on his personal qualities
than on his station; he was even so far on a level with the people,
that a stated price was fixed for his head, and a legal fine was
levied upon his murderer, which, though proportionate to his station,
and superior to that paid for the life of a subject, was a sensible
mark of his subordination to the community.

[MN Succession of the kings.]
It is easy to imagine, that an independent people, so little
restrained by law and cultivated by science, would not be very strict
in maintaining a regular succession of their princes. Though they
paid great regard to the royal family, and ascribed to it an
undisputed superiority, they either had no rule, or none that was
steadily observed, in filling the vacant throne; and present
convenience, in that emergency, was more attended to than general
principles. We are not, however, to suppose that the crown was
considered as altogether elective; and that a regular plan was traced
by the constitution for supplying, by the suffrages of the people,
every vacancy made by the demise of the first magistrate. If any king
left a son of an age and capacity fit for government, the young prince
naturally stepped into the throne: if he was a minor, his uncle, or
the next prince of the blood, was promoted to the government, and left
the sceptre to his posterity: any sovereign, by taking previous
measures with the leading men, had it greatly in his power to appoint
his successor: all these changes, and indeed the ordinary
administration of government, required the express concurrence, or at
least the tacit acquiescence, of the people; but possession, however
obtained, was extremely apt to secure their obedience, and the idea of
any right, which was once excluded, was but feeble and imperfect.
This is so much the case in all barbarous monarchies, and occurs so
often in the history of the Anglo-Saxons, that we cannot consistently
entertain any other notion of their government. The idea of an
hereditary succession in authority is so natural to men, and is so
much fortified by the usual rule in transmitting private possessions,
that it must retain a great influence on every society, which does not
exclude it by the refinements of a republican constitution. But as
there is a material difference between government and private
possessions, and every man is not as much qualified for exercising the
one, as for enjoying the other, a people, who are not sensible of the
general advantages attending a fixed rule, and apt to make great leaps
in the succession, and frequently to pass over the person, who, had he
possessed the requisite years and abilities, would have been thought
entitled to the sovereignty. Thus, these monarchies are not, strictly
speaking, either elective or hereditary; and though the destination of
a prince may often be followed in appointing his successor, they can
as little be regarded as wholly testamentary. The states by their
suffrage may sometimes establish a sovereign; but they more frequently
recognize the person whom they find established: a few great men take
the lead; the people, overawed and influenced, acquiesce in the
government; and the reigning prince, provided he be of the royal
family, passes undisputedly for the legal sovereign.

[MN The Wittenagemot.]
It is confessed, that our knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon history and
antiquities is too imperfect to afford us means of determining, with
certainty, all the prerogatives of the crown and privileges of the
people, or of giving an exact delineation of that government. It is
probable, also, that the constitution might be somewhat different in
the different kingdoms of the Heptarchy, and that it changed
considerably during the course of six centuries, which elapsed from
the first invasion of the Saxons till the Norman conquest [a]. But
most of these differences and changes, with their causes and effects,
are unknown to us. It only appears, that at all times, and in all the
kingdoms, there was a national council, called a Wittenagemot, or
assembly of the wise men, (for that is the import of the term,) whose
consent was requisite for enacting laws, and for ratifying the chief
acts of public administration. The preambles to all the laws of
Ethelbert, Ina, Alfred, Edward the Elder, Athelstan, Edmond, Edgar,
Ethelred, and Edward the Confessor; even those to the laws of Canute,
though a kind of conqueror, put this matter beyond controversy, and
carry proofs everywhere of a limited and legal government. But who
were the constituent members of this Wittenagemot has not been
determined with certainty by antiquaries. It is agreed, that the
bishops and abbots [b] were an essential part; and it is also evident,
from the tenour of those ancient laws, that the Wittenagemot enacted
statutes which regulated the ecclesiastical as well as civil
government, and that those dangerous principles, by which the church
is totally severed from the state, were hitherto unknown to the
Anglo-Saxons [c]. It also appears, that the aldermen, or governors of
counties, who, after the Danish times, were often called earls [d],
were admitted into this council, and gave their consent to the public
statutes. But besides the prelates and aldermen, there is also
mention of the Wites, or Wise-men, as a component part of the
Wittenagemot; but who THESE were, is not so clearly ascertained by the
laws or the history of that period. The matter would probably be of
difficult discussion, even were it examined impartially; but as our
modern parties have chosen to divide on this point, the question has
been disputed with the greater obstinacy, and the arguments on both
sides have become, on that account, the more captious and deceitful.
Our monarchical faction maintain, that these WITES, or SAPIENTES, were
the judges, or men learned in the law; the popular faction assert them
to be representatives of the boroughs, or what we now call the
[FN [a] We know of one change, not inconsiderable, in the Saxon
constitution. The Saxon Annals, p. 49, inform us, that it was in
early times the prerogative of the king to name the dukes, earls,
aldermen, and sheriffs of the counties. Asser, a contemporary writer,
informs us, that Alfred deposed all the ignorant aldermen, and
appointed men of more capacity in their place. Yet the laws of Edward
the Confessor, Sec. 35, say expressly, that the Heretoghs or dukes,
and the sheriffs, were chosen by the freeholders in the folkmote, a
county court, which was assembled once a year, and where all the
freeholders swore allegiance to the king. [b] Sometimes abbesses were
admitted; at least, they often sign the king's charters or grants.
Spellm. Gloss. in verbo PARLIAMENTUM. [c] Wilkins, passim. [d] See
note [G] at the end of the volume.]

The expressions employed by all ancient historians, in mentioning the
Wittenagemot, seem to contradict the latter supposition. The members
are almost always called the PRINCIPES, SATRAPAE, OPTIMATES, MAGNATES,
PROCERES; terms which seem to suppose an aristocracy, and to exclude
the Commons. The boroughs also, from the low state of commerce, were
so small and so poor, and the inhabitants lived in such dependence on
the great men [e], that it seemed nowise probable they would be
admitted as a part of the national councils. The Commons are well
known to have had no share in the governments established by the
Franks, Burgundians, and other northern nations; and we may conclude
that the Saxons, who remained longer barbarous and uncivilized than
those tribes, would never think of conferring such an extraordinary
privilege on trade and industry. The military profession alone was
honourable among all those conquerors; the warriors subsisted by their
possessions in land; they became considerable by their influence over
their vassals, retainers, tenants, and slaves; and it requires strong
proof to convince us that they would admit any of a rank so much
inferior as the burgesses, to share with them in the legislative
authority. Tacitus indeed affirms, that among the ancient Germans,
the consent of all the members of the community was required in every
important deliberation; but he speaks not of representatives; and this
ancient practice, mentioned by the Roman historian, could only have
place in small tribes, where every citizen might, without
inconvenience, be assembled upon any extraordinary emergency. After
principalities became extensive; after the difference of property had
formed distinctions more important than those which arose from
personal strength and valour, we may conclude, that the national
assemblies must have been more limited in their number, and composed
only of the more considerable citizens.
[FN [e] Brady's Treatise of English Boroughs, p. 3, 4, 5, &c.]

But though we must exclude the burgesses, or Commons from the Saxon
Wittenagemot, there is some necessity for supposing that this assembly
consisted of other members than the prelates, abbots, aldermen, and
the judges or privy council. For as all these, excepting some of the
ecclesiastics [f], were anciently appointed by the king, had there
been no other legislative authority, the royal power had been in a
great measure absolute, contrary to the tenour of all the historians,
and to the practice of all the northern nations. We may therefore
conclude, that the more considerable proprietors of land were, without
any election, constituent members of the national assembly; there is
reason to think that forty hides, or between four and five thousand
acres, was the estate requisite for entitling the possessor to this
honourable privilege. We find a passage in an ancient author [g], by
which it appears, that a person of very noble birth, even one allied
to the crown, was not esteemed a PRINCEPS (the term usually employed
by ancient historians, when the Wittenagemot is mentioned) till he had
acquired a fortune of that amount. Nor need we imagine that the
public council would become disorderly or confused by admitting so
great a multitude. The landed property of England was probably in few
hands during the Saxon times; at least during the latter part of that
period; and as men had hardly any ambition to attend those public
councils, there was no danger of the assembly's becoming too numerous
for the despatch of the little business which was brought before them.
[FN [f] There is some reason to think, that the bishops were sometimes
chosen by the Wittenagemot, and confirmed by the king. Eddius, cap.
2. The abbots in the monasteries of royal foundation were anciently
named by the king; though Edgar gave the monks the election, and only
reserved to himself the ratification. This destination was afterwards
frequently violated; and the abbots, as well as bishops were
afterwards all appointed by the king; as we learn from Ingulph, a
writer contemporary with the conquest. [g] Hist. Eliensis, lib. 2
cap. 40.]

It is certain, that, whatever we may determine concerning the
constituent members of the Wittenagemot, in whom, with the king, the
legislature resided, the Anglo-Saxon government, in the period
preceding the Norman conquest, was become extremely aristocratical;
the royal authority was very limited; the people, even if admitted to
that assembly, were of little or no weight and consideration. We have
hints given us in historians, of the great power and riches of
particular noblemen: and it could not but happen, after the abolition
of the Heptarchy, when the king lived at a distance from the
provinces, that those great proprietors, who resided on their estates,
would much augment their authority over their vassals and retainers,
and over all the inhabitants of the neighbourhood. Hence the
immeasurable power assumed by Harold, Godwin, Leofric, Siward, Morcar,
Edwin, Edric, and Alfric, who controlled the authority of the kings,
and rendered themselves quite necessary in the government. The two
latter, though detested by the people, on account of their joining a
foreign enemy, still preserved their power and influence; and we may
therefore conclude, that their authority was founded, not on
popularity, but on family rights and possessions. There is one
Athelstan, mentioned in the reign of the king of that name, who is
called Alderman of all England, and is said to be half-king; though
the monarch himself was a prince of valour and abilities [h]. And we
find, that in the latter Saxon times, and in these alone, the great
office went from father to son, and became in a manner hereditary in
the families [i].
[FN [h] Hist. Rames. Sec. 3, p. 387. [i] Roger Hoveden, giving the
reason why William the Conqueror made Cospatric Earl of
See also Sim. Dun. p. 205. We see in those instances the same
tendency towards rendering offices hereditary, which took place,
during a more early period, on the continent, and which had already
produced there its full effect.]

The circumstances attending the invasions of the Danes would also
serve much to increase the power of the principal nobility. Those
freebooters made unexpected inroads on all quarters; and there was a
necessity that each county should resist them by its own force, and
under the conduct of its own nobility and its own magistrates. For
the same reason that a general war, managed by the united efforts of
the state, commonly augments the power of the crown; those private
wars and inroads turned to the advantage of the aldermen and nobles.

Among that military and turbulent people, so averse to commerce and
the arts, and so little inured to industry, justice was commonly very
ill administered, and great oppression and violence seem to have
prevailed. These disorders would be increased by the exorbitant power
of the aristocracy; and would, in their turn, contribute to increase
it. Men, not daring to rely on the guardianship of the laws, were
obliged to devote themselves to the service of some chieftain, whose
orders they followed, even to the disturbance of the government, or
the injury of their fellow-citizens, and who afforded them, in return,
protection from any insult or injustice by strangers. Hence, we find
by the extracts which Dr. Brady has given us from Domesday, that
almost all the inhabitants, even of towns, had placed themselves under
the clientship of some particular nobleman, whose patronage they
purchased by annual payments, and whom they were obliged to consider
as their sovereign, more than the king himself, or even the
legislature [k]. A client, though a freeman, was supposed so much to
belong to his patron, that his murderer was obliged by law to pay a
fine to the latter, as a compensation for his loss; in like manner as
he paid a fine to the master for the murder of his slave [l]. Men who
were of a more considerable rank, but not powerful enough each to
support himself by his own independent authority, entered into formal
confederacies with each other, and composed a kind of separate
community, which rendered itself formidable to all aggressors. Dr.
Hickes has preserved a curious Saxon bond of this kind, which he calls
a SODALITIUM, and which contains many particulars characteristical of
the manners and customs of the times [m]. All the associates are
there said to be gentlemen of Cambridgeshire, and they swear before
the holy relics to observe their confederacy, and to be faithful to
each other: they promise to bury any of the associates who dies, in
whatever place he had appointed; to contribute to his funeral charges,
and to attend at his interment; and whoever is wanting in this last
duty, binds himself to pay a measure of honey. When any of the
associates is in danger, and calls for the assistance of his fellows,
they promise, besides flying to his succour, to give information to
the sheriff; and if he be negligent in protecting the person exposed
to danger, they engage to levy a fine of one pound upon him: if the
president of the society himself be wanting in this particular, he
binds himself to pay one pound; unless he has the reasonable excuse of
sickness, or of duty to his superior. When any of the associates is
murdered, they are to exact eight pounds from the murderer; and if he
refuse to pay it, they are to prosecute him for the sum at their joint
expense. If any of the associates who happens to be poor kill a man,
the society are to contribute, by a certain proportion, to pay his
fine: a mark a-piece if the fine be seven hundred shillings; less if
the person killed be a clown or ceorle; the half of that sum, again,
if he be a Welshman. But where any of the associates kills a man,
wilfully and without provocation, he must himself pay the fine. If
any of the associates kill any of his fellows in a like criminal
manner, besides paying the usual fine to the relations of the
deceased, he must pay eight pounds to the society, or renounce the
benefit of it; in which case, they bind themselves, under the penalty
of one pound, never to eat or drink with him, except in the presence
of the king, bishop, or alderman. There are other regulations to
protect themselves and their servants from all injuries, to revenge
such as are committed, and to prevent their giving abusive language to
each other; and the fine, which they engage to pay for this last
offence, is a measure of honey.
[FN [k] Brady's Treatise of Boroughs, p. 3, 4, 5, &c. The case was
the same with the freemen in the country. See Pref. to his Hist. p.
8, 9, 10, &c. [1] LL. Edw. Conf. Sec. 8. apud Ingulph. [m] Dissert.
Epist. p. 21.]

It is not to be doubted but a confederacy of this kind must have been
a great source of friendship and attachment; when men lived in
perpetual danger from enemies, robbers, and oppressors, and received
protection chiefly from their personal valour, and from the assistance
of their friends or patrons. As animosities were then more violent,
connexions were also more intimate, whether voluntary or derived from
blood: the most remote degree of propinquity was regarded: an
indelible memory of benefits was preserved: severe vengeance was taken
for injuries, both from a point of honour, and as the best means of
future security: and the civil union being weak, many private
engagements were contracted in order to supply its place, and to
procure men that safety which the laws and their own innocence were
not alone able to insure to them.

On the whole, notwithstanding the seeming liberty, or rather
licentiousness, of the Anglo-Saxons, the great body even of the free
citizens, in those ages, really enjoyed much less true liberty, than
where the execution of the laws is the most severe, and where subjects
are reduced to the strictest subordination and dependence on the civil
magistrate. The reason is derived from the excess itself of that
liberty. Men must guard themselves at any price against insults and
injuries; and where they receive not protection from the laws and
magistrate, they will seek it by submission to superiors, and by
herding in some private confederacy which acts under the direction of
a powerful leader. And thus all anarchy is the immediate cause of
tyranny, if not over the state, at least over many of the individuals.
Security was provided by the Saxon laws to all members of the
Wittenagemot, both in going and returning, EXCEPT THEY WERE NOTORIOUS

[MN The several orders of men.]
The German Saxons, as the other nations of that continent, were
divided into three ranks of men, the noble, the free, and the slaves
[n]. This distinction they brought over with them into Britain.
[FN [n] Nithard. Hist. lib. 4.]

The nobles were called thanes; and were of two kinds, the king's
thanes and lesser thanes. The latter seem to have been dependent on
the former; and to have received lands, for which they paid rent,
services, or attendance in peace and war [o]. We know of no title
which raised any one to the rank of thane, except noble birth and the
possession of land. The former was always much regarded by all the
German nations, even in their most barbarous state; and as the Saxon
nobility, having little credit, could scarcely burthen their estates
with much debt, and as the Commons had little trade or industry by
which they could accumulate riches, these two ranks of men, even
though they were not separated by positive laws, might remain long
distinct, and the noble families continue many ages in opulence and
splendour. There were no middle ranks of men that could gradually mix
with their superiors, and insensibly procure to themselves honour and
distinction. If by any extraordinary accident a mean person acquired
riches, a circumstance so singular made him be known and remarked; he
became the object of envy, as well as of indignation, to all the
nobles; he would have great difficulty to defend what he had acquired;
and he would find it impossible to protect himself from oppression,
except by courting the patronage of some great chieftain, and paying a
large price for his safety.
[FN [o] Spellm. Feuds and Tenures, p. 40.]

There are two statutes among the Saxon laws which seem calculated to
confound those different ranks of men; that of Athelstan, by which a
merchant, who had made three long sea voyages on his own account, was
entitled to the quality of thane [p]; and that of the same prince, by
which a ceorle or husbandman, who had been able to purchase five hides
of land, and had a chapel, a kitchen, a hall, and a bell, was raised
to the same distinction [q]. But the opportunities were so few, by
which a merchant or ceorle could thus exalt himself above his rank,
that the law could never overcome the reigning prejudices; the
distinction between noble and base blood would still be indelible; and
the well-born thanes would entertain the highest contempt for those
legal and factitious ones. Though we are not informed of any of these
circumstances by ancient historians, they are so much founded on the
nature of things, that we may admit them as a necessary and infallible
consequence of the situation of the kingdom during those ages.
[FN [p] Wilkins, p. 71. [q] Selden, Titles of Honour, p. 515.
Wilkins, p. 70.]

The cities appear by Domesday-book to have been at the Conquest little
better than villages [r]. York itself, though it was always the
second, at least the third [s], city in England, and was the capital
of a great province, which never was thoroughly united with the rest,
contained but one thousand four hundred and eighteen families [t].
Malmsbury tells us [u], that the great distinction between the
Anglo-Saxon nobility, and the French or Norman was, that the latter
built magnificent and stately castles; whereas the former consumed
their immense fortunes in riot and, hospitality, and in mean houses.
We may thence infer, that the arts in general were much less advanced
in England than in France; a greater number of idle servants and
retainers lived about the great families; and as these, even in
France, were powerful enough to disturb the execution of the laws, we
may judge of the authority acquired by the aristocracy in England.
When Earl Godwin besieged the Confessor in London, he summoned from
all parts his huscarles or houseceorles and retainers, and thereby
constrained his sovereign to accept of the conditions which he was
pleased to impose upon him.
[FN [r] Winchester, being the capital of the West Saxon monarchy, was
anciently a considerable city. Gul. Pict. p. 210. [s] Norwich
contained 738 houses, Exeter 315, Ipswich 538, Northampton 60,
Hereford 146, Canterbury 262, Bath 64, Southampton 84, Warwick 225.
See Brady of Boroughs, p. 3, 4, 5, 6, &c. These are the most
considerable he mentions. The account of them is extracted from
Domesday-book. [t] Brady's Treatise of Boroughs, p. 10. There were
six wards, besides the archbishop's palace; and five of these wards
contained the number of families here mentioned, which, at the rate of
five persons to a family, makes about 7000 souls. The sixth ward was
laid waste. [u] p. 102. See also, De Gest. Angl. p. 333.]

The lower rank of freemen were denominated ceorles among the
Anglo-Saxons; and, where they were industrious, they were chiefly
employed in husbandry: whence a ceorle and a husbandman became in a
manner synonymous terms. They cultivated the farms of the nobility or
thanes, for which they paid rent; and they seem to have been
removeable at pleasure. For there is little mention of leases among
the Anglo-Saxons; the pride of the nobility, together with the general
ignorance of writing, must have rendered these contracts very rare,
and must have kept the husbandmen in a dependent condition. The rents
of farms were then chiefly paid in kind [w].
[FN [w] LL. Inae, Sec. 70. These laws fixed the rents for a hide; but
it is difficult to convert it into modern measures.]

But the most numerous rank by far in the community seems to have been
the slaves or villains, who were the property of their lords, and were
consequently incapable themselves of possessing any property. Dr.
Brady assures us, from a survey of Domesday-book [x], that in all the
counties of England, the far greater part of the land was occupied by
them, and that the husbandmen, and still more the socmen, who were
tenants that could not be removed at pleasure, were very few in
comparison. This was not the case with the German nations, as far as
we can collect from the account given us by Tacitus. The perpetual
wars in the Heptarchy, and the depredations of the Danes, seem to have
been the cause of this great alteration with the Anglo-Saxons.
Prisoners taken in battle, or carried off in the frequent inroads,
were then reduced to slavery; and became, by right of war [y],
entirely at the disposal of their lords. Great property in the
nobles, especially if joined to an irregular administration of
justice, naturally favours the power of the aristocracy; but still
more so if the practice of slavery be admitted, and has become very
common. The nobility not only possess the influence which always
attends riches, but also the power which the laws give them over their
slaves and villains. It then becomes difficult, and almost
impossible, for a private man to remain altogether free and
[FN [x] General Preface to his Hist. p. 7, 8, 9 &c. [y] LL. Edg. Sec.
14 apud Spellm. Conc. vol. 1. p. 471.]

There were two kinds of slaves among the Anglo-Saxons; household
slaves, after the manner of the ancients, and praedial, or rustic,
after the manner of' the Germans [z]. These latter resembled the
serfs, which are at present to be met with in Poland, Denmark, and
some parts of Germany. The power of a master over his slaves was not
unlimited among the Anglo-Saxons, as it was among their ancestors. If
a man beat out his slave's eye or teeth, the slave recovered his
liberty [a]: if he killed him, he paid a fine to the king, provided
the slave died within a day after the wound or blow; otherwise it
passed unpunished [b]. The selling of themselves or children to
slavery was always the practice among the German nations [c], and was
continued by the Anglo-Saxons [d].
[FN [z] Spellm. Gloss. in verb. SERRUS [a] LL. Aelf. Sec. 20. [b]
Ibid 17. [c] Tacit. de Morib. Germ. [d] LL. Inae, Sec. 11 LL. Aelf.
Sec. 12.]

The great lords and abbots among the Anglo-Saxons possessed a criminal
jurisdiction within their territories, and could punish without
appeal, any thieves or robbers whom they caught there [e]. This
institution must have had a very contrary effect to that which was
intended, and must have procured robbers a sure protection on the
lands of such noblemen as did not sincerely mean to discourage crimes
and violence.
[FN [e] Higden, lib. 1. cap. 50. LL. Edw. Conf. Sec. 26. Spellm.
Conc. vol. i. p. 415. Gloss. in verb. HALIGEMOT ET INFANGENTHEFE.]

[MN Courts of justice.]
But though the general strain of the Anglo-Saxon government seems to
have become aristocratical, there were still considerable remains of
the ancient democracy, which were not indeed sufficient to protect the
lowest of the people, without the patronage of some great lord, but
might give security, and even some degree of dignity, to the gentry,
or inferior nobility. The administration of justice, in particular,
by the courts of the decennary, the hundred, and the county, was well
calculated to defend general liberty, and to restrain the power of the
nobles. In the county courts, or shiremotes, all the freeholders were
assembled twice a year, and received appeals from the inferior courts.
They there decided all causes, ecclesiastical as well as civil; and
the bishop, together with the alderman or earl, presided over them
[f]. The affair was determined in a summary manner, without much
pleading, formality, or delay, by a majority of voices; and the bishop
and alderman had no farther authority than to keep order among the
freeholders, and interpose with their opinion [g]. Where justice was
denied during three sessions by the hundred, and then by the county
court, there lay an appeal to the king's court [h]; but this was not
practised on slight occasions. The alderman received a third of the
fines levied in those courts [i]; and as most of the punishments were
then pecuniary, this perquisite formed a considerable part of the
profits belonging to his office. The two-thirds also which went to
the king, made no contemptible part of the public revenue. Any
freeholder was fined who absented himself thrice from these courts
[FN [f] LL. Edg. Sec. 5. Wilkins, p. 78. LL. Canut. Sec. 17.
Wilkins, p. 136. [g] Hickes, Dissert. Epist. p. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
[h] LL. Edg Sec. 2. Wilkins, p. 77. LL. Canut. Sec. 18. apud
Wilkins, p. 136. [i] LL. Edw. Conf. Sec. 31. [k] LL. Ethelst. Sec.

As the extreme ignorance of the age made deeds and writings very rare,
the county or hundred court was the place where the most remarkable
civil transactions were finished, in order to preserve the memory of
them, and prevent all future disputes. Here testaments were
promulgated, slaves manumitted, bargains of sale concluded; and
sometimes, for greater security, the most considerable of these deeds
were inserted in the blank leaves of the parish bible, which thus
became a kind of register too sacred to be falsified. It was not
unusual to add to the deed an imprecation on all such as should be
guilty of that crime [l].
[FN [1] Hickes, Dissert. Epist.]

Among a people, who lived in so simple a manner as the Anglo-Saxons,
the judicial power is always of greater importance than the
legislative. There were few or no taxes imposed by the states; there
were few statutes enacted; and the nation was less governed by laws
than by customs, which admitted a great latitude of interpretation.
Though it should therefore be allowed that the Wittenagemot was
altogether composed of the principal nobility, the county courts,
where all the freeholders were admitted, and which regulated all the
daily occurrences of life, formed a wide basis for the government, and
were no contemptible checks on the aristocracy. But there is another
power still more important than either the judicial or legislative; to
wit, the power of injuring or serving by immediate force and violence,
for which it is difficult to obtain redress in courts of justice. In
all extensive governments, where the execution of the laws is feeble,
this power naturally falls into the hands of the principal nobility;
and the degree of it which prevails cannot be determined so much by
the public statutes, as by small incidents in history, by particular
customs, and sometimes by the reason and nature of things. The
Highlands of Scotland have long been entitled by law to every
privilege of British subjects; but it was not till very lately that
the common people could in fact enjoy these privileges.

The powers of all the members of the Anglo-Saxon government are
disputed among historians and antiquaries; the extreme obscurity of
the subject, even though faction had never entered into the question,
would naturally have begotten those controversies. But the great
influence of the lords over their slaves and tenants, the clientship
of the burghers, the total want of a middling rank of men, the extent
of the monarchy, the loose execution of the laws, the continued
disorders and convulsions of the state; all these circumstances evince
that the Anglo-Saxon government became at last extremely
aristocratical; and the events, during the period immediately
preceding the conquest, confirm this inference or conjecture.

[MN Criminal law.]
Both the punishments inflicted by the Anglo-Saxon courts of
judicature, and the methods of proof employed in all causes, appear
somewhat singular, and are very different from those which prevail at
present among all civilized nations.

We must conceive that the ancient Germans were little removed from the
original state of nature: the social confederacy among them was more
martial than civil: they had chiefly in view the means of attack or
defence against public enemies, not those of protection against their
fellow-citizens: their possessions were so slender and so equal, that
they were not exposed to great danger; and the natural bravery of the
people made every man trust to himself, and to his particular friends,
for his defence or vengeance. This defect in the political union drew
much closer the knot of particular confederacies; an insult upon any
man was regarded by all his relations and associates as a common
injury; they were bound by honour, as well as by a sense of common
interest, to revenge his death, or any violence which he had suffered:
they retaliated on the aggressor by like acts of violence; and if he
were protected, as was natural and usual, by his own clan, the quarrel
was spread still wider, and bred endless disorders in the nation.

The Frisians, a tribe of the Germans, had never advanced beyond this
wild and imperfect state of society; and the right of private revenge
still remained among them unlimited and uncontrolled [m]. But the
other German nations, in the age of Tacitus, had made one step farther
towards completing the political or civil union. Though it still
continued to be an indispensable point of honour for every clan to
revenge the death or injury of a member, the magistrate had acquired a
right of interposing in the quarrel, and of accommodating the
difference. He obliged the person maimed or injured, and the
relations of one killed, to accept of a present from the aggressor and
his relations [n], as a compensation for the injury [o], and to drop
all farther prosecution of revenge. That the accommodation of one
quarrel might not be the source of more, this present was fixed and
certain, according to the rank of the person killed, or injured, and
was commonly paid in cattle, the chief property of those rude and
uncultivated nations. A present of this kind gratified the revenge of
the injured family, by the loss which the aggressor suffered; it
satisfied their pride, by the submission which it expressed; it
diminished their regret for the loss or injury of a kinsman, by their
acquisition of new property; and thus general peace was for a moment
restored to the society [p].
[FN [m] LL. Fris. tit. 2. apud. Lindenbrog. p. 491. [n] LL. Aethelb.
Sec. 23. LL. Aelf. Sec. 27. [o] Called by the Saxons MOEGBOTA. [p]
Tacit. de Morib. Germ. The author says, that the price of the
composition was fixed; which must have been by the laws and the
interposition of the magistrates.]

But when the German nations had been settled some time in the
provinces of the Roman empire, they made still another step towards a
more cultivated life, and their criminal justice gradually improved
and refined itself. The magistrate, whose office it was to guard
public peace, and to suppress private animosities, conceived himself
to be injured by every injury done to any of his people; and besides
the compensation to the person who suffered, or to his family, he
thought himself entitled to exact a fine called the Fridwit as an
atonement for the breach of peace, and as a reward for the pains which
he had taken in accommodating the quarrel. When this idea, which is
so natural, was once suggested, it was willingly received both by
sovereign and people. The numerous fines which were levied augmented
the revenue of the king; and the people were sensible that he would be
more vigilant in interposing with his good offices, when he reaped
such immediate advantage from them; and that injuries would be less
frequent, when, besides compensation to the person injured, they were
exposed to this additional penalty [q].
[FN [q] Besides paying money to the relations of the deceased, and to
the king, the murderer was also obliged to pay the master of a slave
or vassal a sum as a compensation for his loss. This was called the
MANBOTE. See Spell. Gloss. in verb. FREDUM, MANBOT.]

This short abstract contains the history of the criminal jurisprudence
of the northern nations for several centuries. The state of England
in this particular, during the period of the Anglo-Saxons, may be
judged of by the collection of ancient laws, published by Lambard and
Wilkins. The chief purport of these laws is not to prevent or
entirely suppress private quarrels, which the legislature knew to be
impossible, but only to regulate and moderate them. The laws of
Alfred enjoin, that if any one know that his enemy or aggressor, after
doing him an injury, resolves to keep within his own house, AND HIS
OWN LANDS [r], he shall not fight him till he require compensation for
the injury. If he be strong enough to besiege him in his house, he
may do it for seven days without attacking him; and if the aggressor
be willing, during that time, to surrender himself and his arms, his
adversary may detain him thirty days; but is afterwards obliged to
restore him safe to his kindred, AND BE CONTENT WITH THE COMPENSATION.
If the criminal fly to the temple, that sanctuary must not be
violated. Where the assailant has not force sufficient to besiege the
criminal in his house, he must apply to the alderman for assistance;
and if the alderman refuse aid, the assailant must have recourse to
the king; and he is not allowed to assault the house till after this
supreme magistrate has refused assistance. If any one meet with his
enemy, and be ignorant that he was resolved to keep within his own
lands, he must, before he attack him, require him to surrender himself
prisoner, and deliver up his arms; in which case he may detain him
thirty days: but if he refuse to deliver up his arms, it is then
lawful to fight him. A slave may fight in his master's quarrel: a
father may fight in his son's with any one, except with his master
[FN [r] The addition of these last words in Italics appears necessary
from what follows in the same law. [s] LL. Aelfr. Sec. 28 Wilkins,
p. 43.]

It was enacted by King Ina, that no man should take revenge for an
injury till he had first demanded compensation, and had been refused
it [t].
[FN [t] LL. Inae, Sec. 9.]

King Edmond, in the preamble to his laws, mentions the general misery
occasioned by the multiplicity of private feuds and battles; and he
establishes several expedients for remedying this grievance. He
ordained that if any one commit murder, be may, with the assistance of
his kindred, pay within a twelvemonth the fine of his crime; and if
they abandon him, he shall alone sustain the deadly feud or quarrel
with the kindred of the murdered person: his own kindred are free from
the feud, but on condition that they neither converse with the
criminal, nor supply him with meat or OTHER NECESSARIES: if any of
them, after renouncing him, receive him into their house, OR GIVE HIM
ASSISTANCE, they are finable to the king, and are involved in the
feud. If the kindred of the murdered person take revenge on any but
the criminal himself, AFTER HE IS ABANDONED BY HIS KINDRED, all their
property is forfeited, and they are declared to be enemies to the king
and all his friends [u]. It is also ordained, that the fine for
murder shall never be remitted by the king [w]; and that no criminal
shall be killed who flies to the church, or any of the king's towns
[x]; and the king himself declares, that his house shall give no
protection to murderers, till they have satisfied the church by their
penance, and the kindred of the deceased, by making compensation [y].
The method appointed for transacting this composition is found in the
same law [z].
[FN [u] LL. Edm. Sec. 1. Wilkins, p. 73. [w] LL. Edm. Sec. 3. [x]
Ibid. Sec. 2. [y] Ibid. Sec. 4. [z] Ibid Sec. 7.]

These attempts of Edmond, to contract and diminish the feuds, were
contrary to the ancient spirit of the northern barbarians, and were a
step towards a more regular administration of justice. By the Salic
law, any man might, by a public declaration, exempt himself from his
family quarrels: but then he was considered by the law as no longer
belonging to the family; and he was deprived of all right of
succession, as the punishment of his cowardice [a].
[FN [a] Tit. 63.]

The price of the king's head, or his weregild, as it was then called,
was by law thirty thousand thrimsas, near thirteen hundred pounds of
present money. The price of the prince's head was fifteen thousand
thrimsas; that of a bishop's or alderman's, eight thousand; a
sheriff's four thousand; a thane's or clergyman's, two thousand; a
ceorle's, two hundred and sixty-six. These prices were fixed by the
laws of the Angles. By the Mercian law, the price of a ceorle's head
was two hundred shillings; that of a thane's six times as much; that
of a king's six times more [b]. By the laws of Kent, the price of the
archbishop's head was higher than that of the king's [c]. Such
respect was then paid to the ecclesiastics! It must be understood,
that where a person was unable or unwilling to pay the fine, he was
put out of the protection of law, and the kindred of the deceased had
liberty to punish him as they thought proper.
[FN [b] Wilkins, p. 71, 72. [c] LL. Elthredi, apud Wilkins, p. 110.]

Some antiquarians [d] have thought, that these compensations were only
given for manslaughter, not for wilful murder: but no such distinction
appears in the laws; and it is contradicted by the practice of all the
other barbarous nations [e], by that of the ancient Germans [f], and
by that curious monument above mentioned, a Saxon antiquity, preserved
by Hickes. There is indeed a law of Alfred's, which makes wilful
murder capital [g]; but this seems only to have been an attempt of
that great legislator towards establishing a better police in the
kingdom, and it probably remained without execution. By the laws of
the same prince, a conspiracy against the life of the king might be
redeemed by a fine [h].
[FN [d] Tyrrel, Introduction, vol. i. p.126. Carte, vol. i. p. 366.
[e] Lindenbrogius, passim. [f] Tac. de Mor. Germ. [g] LL. Aelf. Sec.
12. Wilkins, p. 29. It is probable that by wilful murder Alfred
means a treacherous murder, committed by one who had no declared feud
with another. [h] LL. Aelf. Sec. 4 Wilkins, p. 35.]

The price of all kinds of wounds was likewise fixed by the Saxon laws:
a wound of an inch long under the hair, was paid with one shilling;
one of a like size in the face, two shillings: thirty shillings for
the loss of an ear, and so forth [i]. There seems not to have been
any difference made, according to the dignity of the person. By the
laws of Ethelbert, any one who committed adultery with his neighbour's
wife, was obliged to pay him a fine, and buy him another wife [k].
[FN [i] LL. Elf. Sec. 40. See also, LL. Ethelb. Sec. 34, &c. [k] LL.
Ethelb. Sec. 32.]

These institutions are not peculiar to the ancient Germans. They seem
to be the necessary progress of criminal jurisprudence among every
free people, where the will of the sovereign is not implicitly obeyed.
We find them among the ancient Greeks during the time of the Trojan
war. Compositions for murder are mentioned in Nestor's speech to
Achilles in the ninth Iliad and are called APOINAI. The Irish, who
never had any connexions with the German nations, adopted the same
practice till very lately; and the price of a man's head was called
among them his ERIC; as we learn from Sir John Davis. The same custom
seems also to have prevailed among the Jews [l].
[FN [l] Exod. cap. xxi. 29, 30.]

Theft and robbery were frequent among the Anglo-Saxons. In order to
impose some check upon these crimes, it was ordained, that no man
should sell or buy any thing above twenty-pence value, except in open
market [m]; and every bargain of sale must be executed before
witnesses [n]. Gangs of robbers much disturbed the peace of the
country; and the law determined, that a tribe of banditti, consisting
of between seven and thirty-five persons, was to be called a TURMA, or
troop: any greater company was denominated an army [o]. The
punishments for this crime were various, but none of them capital [p].
If any man could track his stolen cattle into another's ground, the
latter was obliged to show the tracks out of it, or pay their value
[FN [m] LL. Aethelst. Sec. 12. [n] Ibid. Sec. 10, 12. LL. Edg. apud
Wilkins, p. 80. LL. Ethelredi, Sec. 4 apud Wilkins, p. 103. Hloth.
and Eadm. Sec. 16. LL. Canut. Sec. 22. [o] LL. Inae, Sec. 12. [p]
LL. Inae, Sec. 37. [q] LL. Aethelst. Sec. 2. Wilkins, p. 63.]

Rebellion, to whatever excess it was carried, was not capital, but
might be redeemed by a sum of money [r]. The legislators, knowing it
impossible to prevent all disorders, only imposed a higher fine on
breaches of the peace committed in the king's court, or before an
alderman or bishop. An alehouse too seems to have been considered as
a privileged place; and any quarrels that arose there were more
severely punished than elsewhere [s].
[FN [r] LL. Ethelredi, apud Wilkins, p. 110. LL. Aelf. Sec. 4.
Wilkins, p. 35. [s] LL. Hloth. and Eadm. Sec. 12, 13. LL. Ethelr.
apud Wilkins, p. 117.]

[MN Rules of proof.]
If the manner of punishing crimes among the Anglo-Saxons appear
singular, the proofs were not less so; and were also the natural
result of the situation of the people. Whatever we may imagine
concerning the usual truth and sincerity of men who live in a rude and
barbarous state, there is much more falsehood, and even perjury among
them, than among civilized nations; virtue which is nothing but a more
enlarged and more cultivated reason, never flourishes to any degree,
nor is founded on steady principles of honour, except where a good
education becomes general; and where men are taught the pernicious
consequences of vice, treachery, and immorality. Even superstition,
though more prevalent among ignorant nations, is but a poor supply for
the defects in knowledge and education: our European ancestors, who
employed every moment the expedient of swearing on extraordinary
crosses and relics, were less honourable in all engagements than their
posterity, who, from experience, have omitted those ineffectual
securities. This general proneness to perjury was much increased by
the usual want of discernment in judges, who could not discuss an
intricate evidence, and were obliged to number, not weigh, the
testimony of the witnesses [t]. Hence the ridiculous practice of
obliging men to bring compurgators, who, as they did not pretend to
know any thing of the fact, expressed upon oath, that they believed
the person spoke true; and these compurgators were in some cases
multiplied to the number of three hundred [u]. The practice also of
single combat was employed by most nations on the continent as a
remedy against false evidence [w]; and though it was frequently
dropped, from the opposition of the clergy, it was continually revived
from experience of the falsehood attending the testimony of witnesses
[x]. It became at last a species of jurisprudence: the cases were
determined by law, in which the party might challenge his adversary,
or the witnesses, or the judge himself [y]: and though these customs
were absurd, they were rather an improvement on the methods of trial
which had formerly been practised among those barbarous nations, and
which still prevailed among the Anglo-Saxons.
[FN [t] Sometimes the laws fixed easy general rules for weighing the
credibility of witnesses. A man whose life was estimated at 120
shillings, counterbalanced six ceorles, each of whose lives was only
valued at 20 shillings, and his oath was deemed equivalent to that of
all the six. See Wilkins, p. 72. [u] Praef. Nicol. ad Wilkins, p 11.
[w] LL. Burgund. cap. 45. LL. Lomb. lib. 2. tit. 55, cap. 34. [x]
LL. Longob. lib. 2. tit. 55. cap. 23. apud Landenb. p. 661. [y] See
Desfontaines and Beaumanoir.]

When any controversy about a fact became too intricate for those
ignorant judges to unravel, they had recourse to what they called the
judgment of God; that is, to fortune: their methods of consulting this
oracle were various. One of them was the decision of the CROSS: it
was practised in this manner: when a person was accused of any crime,
he first cleared himself by oath, and he was attended by eleven
compurgators. He next took two pieces of wood, one of which was
marked with the sign of the cross, and wrapping both up in wool, he
placed them on the altar, or on some celebrated relic. After solemn
prayers for the success of the experiment, a priest, or, in his stead,
some unexperienced youth, took up one of the pieces of wood, and if he
happened upon that which was marked with the figure of the cross, the
person was pronounced innocent; if otherwise, guilty [z]. This
practice, as it arose from superstition, was abolished by it in
France. The emperor, Lewis the Debonnaire, prohibited that method of
trial, not because it was uncertain, but lest that sacred figure, says
he, of the cross should be prostituted in common disputes and
controversies [a].
[FN [z] LL. Frison. tit. 14. apud Lindenbrogium, p. 496. [a] Du
Cange, in verb. CRUX.]

The ordeal was another established method of trial among the Anglo-
Saxons. It was practised either by boiling water or red-hot iron.
The former was appropriated to the common people; the latter to the
nobility. The water or iron was consecrated by many prayers, masses,
fastings, and exorcisms [b]; after which the person accused either
took up a stone sunk in the water [c] to a certain depth, or carried
the iron to a certain distance; and his hand being wrapped up, and the
covering sealed for three days, if there appeared, on examining it, no
marks of burning, he was pronounced innocent; if otherwise, guilty
[d]. The trial by cold water was different: the person was thrown
into consecrated water; if he swam, he was guilty; if he sunk,
innocent [e]. It is difficult for us to conceive how any innocent
person could ever escape by the one trial, or any criminal be
convicted by the other. But there was another usage admirably
calculated for allowing every criminal to escape who had confidence
enough to try it. A consecrated cake, called a corsned, was produced;
which if the person could swallow and digest he was pronounced
innocent [f].
[FN [b] Spellm. in verb. ORDEAL. Parker, p. 155. Lindenbrog. p 1299.
[c] LL. Inae, Sec. 77. [d] Sometimes the person accused walked
barefoot over red-hot iron. [e] Spellm. in verb. ORDEALIUM. [f]
Spellm. in verb. CORSNED Parker, p. 156. Text. Roffens. p. 33.]

[MN Military force.]
The feudal law, if it had place at all among the Anglo-Saxons, which
is doubtful, was not certainly extended over all the landed property,
and was not attended with those consequences of homage, reliefs [g],
wardship, marriage, and other burdens, which were inseparable from it
in the kingdoms of the continent. As the Saxons expelled, or almost
entirely destroyed, the ancient Britons, they planted themselves in
this island on the same footing with their ancestors in Germany, and
found no occasion for the feudal institutions [h], which were
calculated to maintain a kind of standing army, always in readiness to
suppress any insurrection among the conquered people. The trouble and
expense of defending the state in England lay equally upon all the
land; and it was usual for every five hides to equip a man for the
service. The TRINODA NECESSITAS, as it was called, or the burden of
military expeditions, of repairing highways, and of building and
supporting bridges, was inseparable from landed property, even though
it belonged to the church or monasteries, unless exempted by a
particular charter [i]. The ceorles or husbandmen were provided with
arms, and were obliged to take their turn in military duty [k]. There
were computed to be two hundred and forty-three thousand six hundred
hides in England [l]; consequently, the ordinary military force of the
kingdom consisted of forty-eight thousand seven hundred and twenty
men; though, no doubt, on extraordinary occasions, a greater number
might be assembled. The king and nobility had some military tenants,
who were called Sithcun-men [m]. And there were some lands annexed to
the office of alderman, and to other offices; but these probably were
not of great extent, and were possessed only during pleasure, as in
the commencement of the feudal law in other countries of Europe.
[FN [g] On the death of an alderman, a greater or lesser thane, there
was a payment made to the king of his best arms; and this was called
his heriot: but this was not of the nature of a relief. See Spellm.
of Tenures, p. 2. The value of this heriot fixed by Canute's laws,
Sec. 69. [h] Bracton de Acqu. rer. domin. lib. 2. cap. 16. See more
fully Spellman of Feuds and Tenures, and Craigius de jure feud. lib.
1. dieg. 7. [i] Spellm. Conc. vol. i. p. 256. [k] Inae, Sec. 51.
[l] Spellm. of Feuds and Tenures, p. 17. [m] Spellm. Conc. vol. i. p.

[MN Public revenue.]
The revenue of the king seems to have consisted chiefly in his
demesnes, which were large; and in the tolls and imposts which he
probably levied at discretion on the boroughs and seaports that lay
within his demesnes. He could not alienate any part of the crown
lands, even to religious uses, without the consent of the states [n].
Danegelt was a land-tax of a shilling a hide, imposed by the states
[o], either for payment of the sums exacted by the Danes, or for
putting the kingdom in a posture of defence against those invaders
[FN [n] Spellm. Conc. vol. i. p. 340. [o] Chron. Sax p. 128. [p] LL.
Edw. Con. Sec. 12.]

[MN Value of money.]
The Saxon pound, as likewise that which was coined for some centuries
after the Conquest, was near three times the weight of our present
money: there were forty-eight shillings in the pound, and five pence
in a shilling [q]; consequently, a Saxon shilling was near a fifth
heavier than ours, and a Saxon penny near three times as heavy [r].
As to the value of money in those times, compared to commodities,
there are some, though not very certain, means of computation. A
sheep, by the laws of Athelstan, was estimated at a shilling; that is,
fifteen pence of our money. The fleece was two fifths of the value of
the whole sheep [s]; much above its present estimation; and the reason
probably was, that the Saxons, like the ancients, were little
acquainted with any clothing but what was made of wool. Silk and
cotton were quite unknown: linen was not much used. An ox was
computed at six times the value of a sheep; a cow at four [t]. If we
suppose that the cattle in that age, from the defects in husbandry,
were not so large as they are at present in England, we may compute
that money was then near ten times of greater value. A horse was
valued at about thirty-six shillings of our money, or thirty Saxon
shillings [u]; a mare a third less A man at three pounds [w]. The
board wages of a child the first year was eight shillings, together
with a cow's pasture in summer, and an ox's in winter [x]. William of
Malmesbury mentions it as a remarkably high price, that William Rufus
gave fifteen marks for a horse, or about thirty pounds of our present
money [y]. Between the years 900 and 1000, Ednoth bought a hide of
land for about a hundred and eighteen shillings of our present money
[z]. This was little more than a shilling an acre, which indeed
appears to have been the usual price, as we may learn from other
accounts [a]. A palfrey was sold for twelve shillings about the year
966 [b]. The value of an ox in King Ethelred's time was between seven
and eight shillings; a cow about six shillings [c]. Gervas of Tilbury
says, that in Henry I.'s time, bread which would suffice a hundred men
for a day was rated at three shillings, or a shilling of that age; for
it is thought that, soon after the Conquest, a pound sterling was
divided into twenty shillings: a sheep was rated at a shilling; and so
of other things in proportion. In Athelstan's time a ram was valued
at a shilling, or four pence Saxon [d]. The tenants of Shireburn were
obliged, at their choice, to pay either sixpence or four hens [e].
About 1232, the Abbot of St. Alban's going on a journey, hired seven
handsome stout horses; and agreed, if any of them died on the road, to
pay the owner thirty shillings a-piece of our present money [f]. It
is to be remarked, that in all ancient times the raising of corn,
especially wheat, being a species of manufactory, that commodity
always bore a higher price, compared to cattle, than it does in our
times [g]. The Saxon Chronicle tells us [h], that in the reign of
Edward the Confessor, there was the most terrible famine ever known;
insomuch that a quarter of wheat rose to sixty pennies, or fifteen
shillings of our present money. Consequently it was as dear as if it
now cost seven pounds ten shillings. This much exceeds the great
famine in the end of Queen Elizabeth, when a quarter of wheat was sold
for four pounds. Money in this last period was nearly of the same
value as in our time. These severe famines are a certain proof of bad
[FN [q] LL. Aelf. Sec. 40. [r] Fleetwood's Chron. Pretiosum, p. 27,
28, &c. [s] LL. Inae, Sec. 69. [t] Wilkins, p 66. [u] Ibid. p. 126.
[w] Ibid. [x] LL. Inae, Sec. 38. [y] p. 121. [z] Hist. Rames, p.
415. [a] Hist. Eliens. p. 473. [b] Ibid. p. 471. [c] Wilkins, p.
126. [d] Ibid. p. 56. [e] Monast. Anglic. vol. ii. p. 528. [f] Mat.
Paris. [g] Fleetwood, p. 83, 94, 96, 98. [h] p. 157.]

On the whole, there are three things to be considered, wherever a sum
of money is mentioned in ancient times. First, the change of
denomination, by which a pound has been reduced to the third part of
its ancient weight in silver. Secondly, the change in value by the
greater plenty of money, which has reduced the same weight of silver
to ten times less value compared to commodities; and consequently a
pound sterling to the thirtieth part of the ancient value. Thirdly,
the fewer people and less industry, which were then to be found in
every European kingdom. This circumstance made even the thirtieth
part of the sum more difficult to levy, and caused any sum to have
more than thirty times greater weight and influence, both abroad and
at home, than in our times; in the same manner that a sum, a hundred
thousand pounds, for instance, is at present more difficult to levy in
a small state, such as Bavaria, and can produce greater effects on
such a small community, than on England. This last difference is not
easy to be calculated: but allowing that England has now six times
more industry, and three times more people than it had at the
Conquest, and for some reigns after that period, we are upon that
supposition to conceive, taking all circumstances together, every sum
of money mentioned by historians, as if it were multiplied more than a
hundredfold above a sum of the same denomination at present.

In the Saxon times, land was divided equally among all the male
children of the deceased, according to the custom of Gavelkind. The
practice of entails is to be found in those times [i]. Land was
chiefly of two kinds, bockland, or land held by book or charter, which
was regarded as full property, and descended to the heirs of the
possessor; and folkland, or the land held by the ceorles and common
people, who were removable at pleasure, and were indeed only tenants
during the will of their lords.
[FN [i] LL Aelf. Sec. 37, apud Wilkins, p. 43.]

The first attempt which we find in England to separate the
ecclesiastical from the civil jurisdiction, was that law of Edgar, by
which all disputes among the clergy were ordered to be carried before
the bishop [k]. The penances were then very severe; but as a man
could buy them off with money, or might substitute others to perform
them, they lay easy upon the rich [l].
[FN [k] Wilkins, p. 83. [l] Wilkins, p. 96, 97. Spellm. Conc. p.

[MN Manners.]
With regard to the manners of the Anglo-Saxons we can say little, but
that they were in general a rude uncultivated people, ignorant of
letters, unskilled in the mechanical arts, untamed to submission under
law and government, addicted to intemperance, riot, and disorder.
Their best quality was their military courage, which yet was not
supported by discipline or conduct. Their want of fidelity to the
prince, or to any trust reposed in them, appears strongly in the
history of their later period; and their want of humanity in all their
history. Even the Norman historians, notwithstanding the low state of
the arts in their own country, speak of them as barbarians, when they
mention the invasion made upon them by the Duke of Normandy [m]. The
Conquest put the people in a situation of receiving slowly, from
abroad, the rudiments of science and cultivation, and of correcting
their rough and licentious manners.
[FN [m] Gul. Pict. p. 202.]



[MN 1066. Consequences of the battle of Hastings.]
Nothing could exceed the consternation which seized the English, when
they received intelligence of the unfortunate battle of Hastings, the
death of their king, the slaughter of their principal nobility and of
their bravest warriors, and the rout and dispersion of the remainder.
But though the loss which they had sustained in that fatal action was
considerable, it might have been repaired by a great nation; where the
people were generally armed, and where there resided so many powerful
noblemen in every province, who could have assembled their retainers,
and have obliged the Duke of Normandy to divide his army, and probably
to waste it in a variety of actions and rencounters. It was thus that
the kingdom had formerly resisted, for many years, its invaders, and
had been gradually subdued, by the continued efforts of the Romans,
Saxons, and Danes; and equal difficulties might have been apprehended
by William in this bold and hazardous enterprise. But there were
several vices in the Anglo-Saxon constitution, which rendered it
difficult for the English to defend their liberties in so critical an
emergency. The people had in a great measure lost all national pride
and spirit, by their recent and long subjection to the Danes; and as
Canute had, in the course of his administration, much abated the
rigours of conquest, and had governed them equitably by their own
laws, they regarded with the less terror the ignominy of a foreign
yoke, and deemed the inconveniences of submission less formidable than
those of bloodshed, war, and resistance. Their attachment also to the
ancient royal family had been much weakened by their habits of
submission to the Danish princes, and by their late election of
Harold, or their acquiescence in his usurpation. And as they had long
been accustomed to regard Edgar Atheling, the only heir of the Saxon
line, as unfit to govern them even in times of order and tranquillity,
they could entertain small hopes of his being able to repair such
great losses as they had sustained, or to withstand the victorious
arms of the Duke of Normandy.

That they might not, however, be altogether wanting to themselves in
this extreme necessity, the English took some steps towards adjusting
their disjointed government, and uniting themselves against the common
enemy. The two potent earls, Edwin and Morcar, who had fled to London
with the remains of the broken army, took the lead on this occasion:
in concert with Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury, a man possessed of
great authority and of ample revenues, they proclaimed Edgar, and
endeavoured to put the people in a posture of defence, and encouraged
them to resist the Normans [a]. But the terror of the late defeat,
and the near neighbourhood of the invaders, increased the confusion
inseparable from great revolutions: and every resolution proposed was
hasty, fluctuating, tumultuary; disconcerted by fear or faction,
ill-planned, and worse executed.
[FN [a] Gul. Pictav. p. 205. Order. Vitalis, p. 502. Hoveden, p.
449. Knyghton, p. 2343.]

William, that his enemies might have no leisure to recover from their
consternation, or unite their councils, immediately put himself in
motion after his victory, and resolved to prosecute an enterprise
which nothing but celerity and vigour could render finally successful.
His first attempt was against Romney, whose inhabitants he severely
punished, on account of their cruel treatment of some Norman seamen
and soldiers, who had been carried thither by stress of weather, or by
a mistake in their course [b]; and foreseeing that his conquest of
England might still be attended with many difficulties and with much
opposition, he deemed it necessary, before he should advance farther
into the country, to make himself master of Dover, which would both
secure him a retreat in case of adverse fortune, and afford him a safe
landing-place for such supplies as might be requisite for pushing his
advantages. The terror diffused by his victory at Hastings was so
great, that the garrison of Dover, though numerous and well provided,
immediately capitulated; and as the Normans, rushing in to take
possession of the town, hastily set fire to some of the houses,
William, desirous to conciliate the minds of the English by an
appearance of lenity and justice, made compensation to the inhabitants
for their losses [c].
[FN [b] Gul. Pictav. p. 204. [c] Gul. Pictav. p. 204.]

The Norman army, being much distressed with a dysentery, was obliged
to remain here eight days, but the duke, on their recovery, advanced
with quick marches towards London, and by his approach increased the
confusions which were already so prevalent in the English councils.
The ecclesiastics in particular, whose influence was great over the
people, began to declare in his favour; and as most of the bishops and
dignified clergymen were even then Frenchmen or Normans, the pope's
bull, by which his enterprise was avowed and hallowed, was now openly
insisted on as a reason for general submission. The superior learning
of those prelates, which, during the Confessor's reign, had raised
them above the ignorant Saxons, made their opinions be received with
implicit faith; and a young prince, like Edgar, whose capacity was
deemed so mean, was but ill qualified to resist the impression which
they made on the minds of the people. A repulse which a body of
Londoners received from five hundred Norman horse, renewed in the city
the terror of the great defeat at Hastings; the easy submission of all
the inhabitants of Kent was an additional discouragement to them; the
burning of Southwark before their eyes made them dread a like fate to
their own city; and no man any longer entertained thoughts but of
immediate safety and of self-preservation. Even the Earls Edwin and
Morcar, in despair of making effectual resistance, retired with their
troops to their own provinces; and the people thenceforth disposed
themselves unanimously to yield to the victor. As soon as he passed
the Thames at Wallingford, and reached Berkhamstead, Stigand, the
primate, made submissions to him: before he came within sight of the
city, all the chief nobility, and Edgar Atheling himself, the new-
elected king, came into his camp, and declared their intention of
yielding to his authority [d]. They requested him to mount their
throne, which they now considered as vacant; and declared to him, that
as they had always been ruled by regal power, they desired to follow,
in this particular, the example of their ancestors, and knew of no one
more worthy than himself to hold the reins of government [e].
[FN [d] Hoveden, p. 450. Flor. Wigorn. p. 634. [e] Gul. Pict. p.
205. Ord. Vital. p. 503.]

Though this was the great object to which the duke's enterprise
tended, he feigned to deliberate on the offer; and being desirous at
first of preserving the appearance of a legal administration, he
wished to obtain a more explicit and formal consent of the English
nation [f]: but Almar, of Aquitain, a man equally respected for valour
in the field and for prudence in council, remonstrating with him on
the danger of delay in so critical a conjuncture, he laid aside all
farther scruples, and accepted of the crown which was tendered him.
Orders were immediately issued to prepare every thing for the ceremony
of his coronation; but as he was yet afraid to place entire confidence
in the Londoners, who were numerous and warlike, he meanwhile
commanded fortresses to be erected, in order to curb the inhabitants,
and to secure his person and government [g].
[FN [f] Gul. Pictav. p. 205. [g] Ibid.]

Stigand was not much in the duke's favour, both because he had
intruded into the see on the expulsion of Robert the Norman, and
because he possessed such influence and authority over the English
[h], as might be dangerous to a new-established monarch. William,
therefore, pretending that the primate had obtained his pall in an
irregular manner from Pope Benedict IX., who was himself an usurper,
refused to be consecrated by him, and conferred this honour on Aldred,
Archbishop of York. Westminster Abbey was the place appointed for
that magnificent ceremony; the most considerable of the nobility, both
English and Norman, attended the duke on this occasion: [MN 1066.
Dec.] Aldred, in a short speech, asked the former whether they agreed
to accept of William as their king: the Bishop of Coutance put the
same question to the latter; and both being answered with acclamations
[i], Aldred administered to the duke the usual coronation oath, by
which he bound himself to protect the church, to administer justice,
and to repress violence: he then anointed him, and put the crown upon
his head [k]. There appeared nothing but joy in the countenances of
the spectators: but in that very moment there burst forth the
strongest symptoms of the jealousy and animosity which prevailed
between the nations, and which continually increased during the reign
of this prince. The Norman soldiers, who were placed without, in
order to guard the church, hearing the shouts within, fancied that the
English were offering violence to their duke; and they immediately
assaulted the populace, and set fire to the neighbouring houses. The
alarm was conveyed to the nobility who surrounded the prince; both
English and Normans, full of apprehensions, rushed out to secure
themselves from the present danger; and it was with difficulty that
William himself was able to appease the tumult [l].
[FN [h] Eadmer, p. 6. [i] Order. Vital. p. 503. [k] Malmesbury, p.
271, says, that he also promised to govern the Normans and English by
equal laws; and this addition to the usual oath seems not improbable,
considering the circumstances of the times. [l] Gul. Pict. p. 206.
Order. Vitalis, p. 503.]

[MN 1067. Settlement of the government.]
The king, thus possessed of the throne by a pretended destination of
King Edward, and by an irregular election of the people, but still
more by force of arms, retired from London to Berking, in Essex, and
there received the submissions of all the nobility who had not
attended his coronation. Edric, surnamed the Forester, grand-nephew
to that Edric, so noted for his repeated acts of perfidy during the
reigns of Ethelred and Edmond; Earl Coxo, a man famous for bravery;
even Edwin and Morcar, Earls of Mercia and Northumberland, with the
other principal noblemen of England, came and swore fealty to him;
were received into favour, and were confirmed in the possession of
their estates and dignities [m]. Every thing bore the appearance of
peace and tranquillity; and William had no other occupation than to
give contentment to the foreigners who had assisted him to mount the
throne, and to his new subjects, who had so readily submitted to him.
[FN [m] Gul. Pict. p. 208. Order. Vitalis, p. 506.]

He had got possession of the treasure of Harold, which was
considerable; and being also supplied with rich presents from the
opulent men in all parts of England, who were solicitous to gain the
favour of their new sovereign, he distributed great sums among his
troops, and by this liberality gave them hopes of obtaining at length
those more durable establishments which they had expected from his
enterprise [n]. The ecclesiastics, both at home and abroad, had much
forwarded his success, and he failed not, in return, to express his
gratitude and devotion in the manner which was most acceptable to
them: he sent Harold's standard to the pope, accompanied with many
valuable presents: all the considerable monasteries and churches in
France, where prayers had been put up for his success, now tasted of
his bounty [o]: the English monks found him well disposed to favour
their order; and be built a new convent near Hastings, which he called
BATTLE ABBEY, and which, on pretence of supporting monks to pray for
his own soul, and for that of Harold, served as a lasting memorial of
his victory [p].
[FN [n] Gul. Pict. p. 206. [o] Ibid. [p] Gul. Gemet. p. 288. Chron.
Sax. p. 189. M. West. p. 226. M. Paris p. 9. Diceto, p. 482. This
convent was freed by him from all episcopal jurisdiction. Monast.
Ang. tom. i. p. 311, 312.]

He introduced into England that strict execution of justice for which
his administration had been much celebrated in Normandy; and even
during this violent revolution, every disorder or oppression met with
rigorous punishment [q]. His army, in particular, was governed with
severe discipline; and, notwithstanding the insolence of victory, care
was taken to give as little offence as possible to the jealousy of the
vanquished. The king appeared solicitous to unite, in an amicable
manner, the Normans and the English, by intermarriages and alliances,
and all his new subjects who approached his person were received with
affability and regard. No signs of suspicion appeared, not even
towards Edgar Atheling, the heir of the ancient royal family, whom
William confirmed in the honours of Earl of Oxford, conferred on him
by Harold, and whom he affected to treat with the highest kindness, as
nephew to the Confessor, his great friend and benefactor. Though he
confiscated the estates of Harold, and of those who had fought in the
battle of Hastings on the side of that prince, whom he represented as
an usurper, he seemed willing to admit of every plausible excuse for
past opposition to his pretensions, and he received many into favour
who had carried arms against him. He confirmed the liberties and
immunities of London and the other cities of England, and appeared
desirous of replacing every thing on ancient establishments. In his
whole administration he bore the semblance of the lawful prince, not
of the conqueror; and the English began to flatter themselves that
they had changed, not the form of their government, but the succession
only of their sovereigns, a matter which gave them small concern. The
better to reconcile his new subjects to his authority, William made a
progress through some parts of England; and besides a splendid court
and majestic presence, which overawed the people, already struck with
his military fame, the appearance of his clemency and justice gained
the approbation of the wise, attentive to the first steps of their new
[FN [q] Gul. Pict. p. 208. Order. Vital. p. 506.]

But amidst this confidence and friendship which he expressed for the
English, the king took care to place all real power in the hands of
his Normans, and still to keep possession of the sword, to which he
was sensible he had owed his advancement to sovereign authority. He
disarmed the city of London and other places, which appeared most
warlike and populous; and building citadels in that capital, as well
as in Winchester, Hereford, and the cities best situated for
commanding the kingdom, he quartered Norman soldiers in all of them,
and left no where any power able to resist or oppose him. He bestowed
the forfeited estates on the most eminent of his captains, and
established funds for the payment of his soldiers. And thus, while
his civil administration carried the face of a legal magistrate, his
military institutions were those of a master and tyrant; at least of
one who reserved to himself; whenever he pleased, the power of
assuming that character.

[MN 1067. King's return to Normandy.]
By this mixture, however, of vigour and lenity, he had so soothed the
minds of the English, that he thought he might safely revisit his
native country, and enjoy the triumph and congratulation of his
ancient subjects. He left the administration in the hands of his
uterine brother, Odo, Bishop of Baieux, and of William Fitz-Osberne.
[MN March.] That their authority might be exposed to less danger, he
carried over with him all the most considerable nobility of England,
who, while they served to grace his court by their presence and
magnificent retinues, were in reality hostages for the fidelity of the
nation. Among these were Edgar Atheling, Stigand the Primate, the
Earls Edwin and Morcar, Waltheof, the son of the brave Earl Siward,
with others eminent for the greatness of their fortunes and families,
or for their ecclesiastical and civil dignities. He was visited at
the abbey of Fescamp, where he resided, during some time, by Rodulph,
uncle to the King of France, and by many powerful princes and nobles,
who, having contributed to his enterprise, were desirous of
participating in the joy and advantages of its success. His English
courtiers, willing to ingratiate themselves with their new sovereign,
outvied each other in equipages and entertainments; and made a display
of riches which struck the foreigners with astonishment. William of
Poictiers, a Norman historian [r], who was present, speaks with
admiration of the beauty of their persons, the size and workmanship of
their silver plate, the costliness of their embroideries, an art in
which the English then excelled; and he expresses himself in such
terms as tend much to exalt our idea of the opulence and cultivation
of the people [s]. But though every thing bore the face of joy and
festivity, and William himself treated his new courtiers with great
appearance of kindness, it was impossible altogether to prevent the
insolence of the Normans; and the English nobles derived little
satisfaction from those entertainments, where they considered
themselves as led in triumph by their ostentatious conqueror.
[FN [r] P. 211, 212. [s] As the historian chiefly insists on the
silver plate, his panegyric on the English magnificence shows only how
incompetent a judge he was of the matter. Silver was then of ten
times the value, and was more than twenty times more rare than at
present; and consequently, of all species of luxury, plate must have
been the rarest.]

[MN 1067. Discontents of the English.]
In England affairs took still a worse turn during the absence of the
sovereign. Discontents and complaints multiplied every where; secret
conspiracies were entered into against the government; hostilities
were already begun in many places; and every thing seemed to menace a
revolution, as rapid as that which had placed William on the throne.
The historian above-mentioned, who is a panegyrist of his master,
throws the blame entirely on the fickle and mutinous disposition of
the English, and highly celebrates the justice and lenity of Odo's and
Fitz-Osberne's administration [t]. But other historians, with more
probability, impute the cause chiefly to the Normans, who, despising a
people that had so easily submitted to the yoke, envying their riches,
and grudging the restraints imposed upon their own rapine, were
desirous of provoking them to a rebellion, by which they expected to
acquire new confiscations and forfeitures, and to gratify those
unbounded hopes which they had formed in entering on this enterprise
[FN [t] P. 212. [u] Order. Vital. p. 507.]

It is evident that the chief reason of this alteration in the
sentiments of the English must be ascribed to the departure of
William, who was alone able to curb the violence of his captains and
to overawe the mutinies of the people. Nothing indeed appears more
strange, than that this prince, in less than three months after the
conquest of a great, warlike, and turbulent nation, should absent
himself in order to revisit his own country, which remained in
profound tranquillity, and was not menaced by any of its neighbours;
and should so long leave his jealous subjects at the mercy of an
insolent and licentious army. Were we not assured of the solidity of
his genius, and the good sense displayed in all other circumstances of
his conduct, we might ascribe this measure to a vain ostentation,
which rendered him impatient to display his pomp and magnificence
among his ancient subjects. It is therefore more natural to believe,
that in so extraordinary a step he was guided by a concealed policy,
and that, though he had thought proper at first to allure the people
to submission by the semblance of a legal administration, he found
that he could neither satisfy his rapacious captains, nor secure his
unstable government without farther exerting the rights of conquest,
and seizing the possessions of the English. In order to have a

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