Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]




time of the Confessor, with the present appellations of the same places, will find that șhe greatest number of them correspund. The hundreds in the county of Sussex were sixty-three, and still remain st: of these, thirty-eight bore the sane names as now; and of the villæ or maneria, which are xboat three hundred and forty-five, there are two hundred and thirty with appellations like their present.

• The following list will shew the correspondencies between the ancient and modern names of the counties vihich occur in Doomsdays book : Chenth.








Grentebrige scire.










London is mentionca in Bede as the metropolis of the East
Saxons in the year 604, lying on the banks of the Thames, “the
emporium of many people coming by sea and land.”.

On the interesting subject of the Government of the AngloSaxons, we highly approve the manner in which Mr. Turner has made his report. Speaking of the dignity and prerogatives of the cyning or king, he observes that

* All the prerogatives and rigkts of the Anglo-Saxon cyning were definite and ascertained. They were such as had become established by law or custom, and could be as little exceeded by the sovereign as. withheld by his people, ,, They were not arbitrary privileges of an unknown extent. Even William the Conqueror found it necessary to. have an official survey of the royal rights taken in every part of the kingdom ; aud we find the hundred, or simitar bodies in every county, making the inquisition to the king's commissioners, who returned to the sovereign that minute record of his claims upon his subjects, which constitutes the Domesday-hook. The royal claims in Domes. day book were, therefore, not the arbitrary impositions of the throne, but were those which the people themselves testified to their king to have been his legal rights. Perhaps no country in Europe can exhibit suck an ancient record of the freedom of its people, and the limited prerogatives of its rulur.' I 4


The nature and powers of the Witena-Gemot, or assembly of the wise men, are afterward carefully and faithfully delineated, under the following topics of inquiry : What its members were styled ? of whom it was compisd? by whom convened ? the times of its meeting? the place ? its business? and its power? To all these questions, satisfactory answers cannot be returned: but it is highly creditable to Mr. Turner, that he confines himself to such a representation as real evi. dence can substantiate, and does not endeavour by the manner of his report to favour any system. We extract a passage or two from this chapter :

• We know what was necessary to exalt a ceorl to a thegen, but we cannot distinctly ascertain all the qualifications which entitled persons to a seat in the witena-gemot. There is, however, one. curious passage which ascertains, that a certain amount of property was an indispensable requisite, and that acquired property would an. swer this purpose as well as hereditary property. The possession here stated to be necessary was 40 hides of land. The whole inci. dent is so curious as to be worth transcribing :-Guddmund desired in matrimony the daughter of a great man, bat because he had not the lordship of 40 hides of land, he could not, though noble, be reckoned among the proceres ; and therefore she refused him. He went to his brother, the abbot of Ely, complaining of bis misfortune. The abbot fraudulently gave him possessions of the monastery sufficient to make up the deficiency. This circumstance attests that nobility alone was not sufficient for a seat among the witan, and that forty hides of land was an indispensable qualification.

• It would be highly interesting to know whether they who pos. sessed this quantity of land had thereby the right of being in the witeoa-gemot, or whether the members of this great council were elected from the territorial proprietors, and sat as their representa. tives. I am not able to decide this curious question. But I cannot avoid mentioning one person's designation, which seems to have the force of expressing an elected member. Among the persons signing to the act of the gemot at Clofeshoe in 824 is “ Ego Beonna electus consent. et subscrib.”_

• The king presided at the witena.gemots, and sometimes, perhaps always, addressed them. In 993 we have this account of a royal speech. The king says, in a charter which recites what had passed at one of their meetings, “ I benigantly addressed to them salutary and pacific words. I admonished all-that those things which were worthy of the Creator, and serviceable to the health of my soul, or to my royal dignity, and which should prevail as proper for the English people, they might, with the Lord's assistance, discuss in common.

• One of their duties was to elect the sovereign, and to assist at his coronation. Another was to co-operate with the king in making jaws. Thus Bede says, of the earliest laws we have, that Ethelbert And of repeating too, as Mr. T. apparently thinks. See p. 117.




established them with the counsel of his wise men.” The intro. ductory passages of the Anglo-Saxon laws which exist, usually express that they were made with the concurrence of the witan.'

Hence it appears that the witena-gemot, the legislative and supreme judicial court of the Anglo-Saxons, resembled our present House of Lords: but, in the Saxon assembly, the members represented territorial property rather than heredi. tary dignity; and in this respect it bore a strong analogy to our modern House of Commons.

We are next presented with a history of the Laws of the Anglo-Saxons respecting Homicide, Personal Injuries, Theft, Adultery, the Were and the Mund, Sureties, Legal Tribunals, Ordeals and Legal Punishments, and Trial by Jury.

It is observable that the principle of pecuniary punishment, which exists in our modern code, and particularly in cases of adultery, pervaded the laws of the Anglo Saxons and of the German nations; and hence it arose that every man was valued at a certain sum, which was called his were, and whoever took his life was obliged to pay


In this mode, compensation was offered to the family or relations of the de. ceased, considering the homicide as a private wrong; and satisfaction was rendered to the community for the public wrong by another pecuniary fine imposed on the murderer, which was called the wite. In the same manner, also, as the were operated as a personal protection, the mind, which was another fine, became the guardian of a man's household peace. • This privilege of the mund,' says Mr. Turner, ' seems to be the principle of the doctrine that every man's house is his castle.'

No apology will be required of us for transcribing a passage from the chapter on the Trial by Jury:

* In considering the origin of the happy and wise institution of the ExGLISH Jury, which lias contributed so much to the excellence of qur national character, and to the support of our constitutional liberty, it is impossible not to feel considerable diffidence and difficulty. It is painful to decide upon a subject on which great men have previously differed. It is peculiarly desirable to trace, if possible, the seed bud, and progressive vegetation of a tree so beautiful and so venerable.

• It is not contested that the institution of a jury existed in the time of the Conqueror. The document which remains of the dispute between Gundulf the bishop of Rochester and Pichot the sheriff, ascertains this fact. We will state the leading circumstances of this valuable account.

* The question was, Whether some land belonged to the church or to the king ? The king commanded that all the men of the county should be gathered together, that by their judgment it might


[ocr errors]

be more justly ascertained to whom the land belonged." This was obviously a shire gemot.

“ They being assembled, from fear of the sheriff, affirmed that the land was the king's: but as the bishop of Bayeus, who presided at that placitum, did not believe them, he ordered that if they knew that what they said was true, they should chuse twelve from among themselves, who should confirm with an oath what all had declared. But these, when they had withdrawn to counsel, and were there harassed by the sheriff ihrough his messenger, returned and swore to the truth of what they asserted."

By this decision the land became the king's. But a motík, who knew how the fact really stood, assured the bishop of Rochester of the falsehood of their oath; who communicated the information to the bishop of Bayeux. The bishop, after hearing the monk, sent for one of the twelve, who falling at his feet, çonfessed that he had forsworn himself. The man on whose oath they had sworn theirs, made a similar avowal.

• On this the bishop " ordered the sheriff to send the rest to London, and't'welve other men from the best in the county, who confirmed that to be true which they had sworn."

• They were all adjudged to be perjured, because the man whose evidence they had accredited, had avowed his perjury. The church recovered the land, and whien "the last twelve wished to affirm that they had not consented with those who had sworn, the bishop said they must prove this by the iron ordeal. And because they undertook this and could not do it, they were fined three hundred pounds to the king by the judgment of other men of the county.”.

* By this narration we find, that a shire.gemot determined on the dispute, in the first instance'; but that in consequence of the doubts of the presiding judgc, they chose' from among themselves twelve who swore to the truth of what they had decided, and whose deter.' mination decided the case.

• The jury appears to me to be an institution of progressive growth, and its principle may be traced to the earliest Anglo-Saxon times. One of the judicial customs of the Saxons was, that a man might be cleared of the accusation of certain crimes, if an appointed number of persons came forwards and' swore that they believed him innocent of the allegation. These men were literally juratores, who swore to a veredictum ; who so far determined the facts of the case as to acquit the person in whose favour they swore. Such an oath, and such an acquittal, is a jury in its earliest and rudest shape; and it is remarkable that for accusations of any consequence among the Saxons of the continent, twelve juratores were the number required for an acquittal. Thus, for the sound of a noble which produced blood, or disclosed the bone, or broke a limb; or if one seized another by the hair, or threw him into the water; in these and some other cases twelve juratores were required. Similar customs may be observed in the laws of the continental Angli and Frisiones, though sometimes the number of the jury or juratores varied according to the charge ; every number being appointed, from three to forty-eight. In the


laws of the Ripuarii we find that in certain cases the oaths of even seventy.two persons were necessary to his acquittal. It is obvious, from their numbers, that these could not have been witnesses to the facts alleged. Nor can we suppose that they came forward with the intention of wilful and suborned perjury. They could only be persons who, after hearing and weighing the facts of the case, proffered their deliberate oaths that the accused was innocent of the charge. And this was performing one of the most important functions of our modern juries.'

We shall not here attend to the state of Learning, which was corfined to the monasteries during the period which we are examining : but it is impossible not to commend the diligence with which Mr. Turner has studied the Latin poetry of Aldheim, Bede, and Alcuin, as well as the vernacular poetry of the Anglo-Saxons, the principles of whose versification he has endeavoured to elucidate.

If Literature made no great advancement among the AngloSaxons, still less were they acquainted with Science ; yet some of their productions in the Arts were not contemptible. Specimens of their architecture still remain ; and on the zig zag fret or moulding by which it is distinguished, Mr. Turner makes this etymological remark:

• The Saxon word used to denote the adorning of a building is gefrætwian, or fræt want, and an ornament is frætew; but frætan signifies to gnaw or to eat ; and upon our recollecting that the diagonal ornament of Saxon building is an exact imitation of teeth, we can hardly refrain from supposing that the ornament was an intended imitation of teeth. Frætew and fräetwung, which they used to signify ornament, may be construed fret-work, or teeth. work. The teeth which the Saxon diagonals represent, are, I bee lieve, marine teeth. If so, perhaps they arose from the stringing of teeth of the large sea animals.'

In the last book, the structure and mechanism of the AngloSaxon language are explained, according to the system of Mr. Tooke, in his Diversions of Purley; observations are offered on its originality; and proofs of its comprehensiveness and power are adduced from our own language, which is chiefly Saxon, by taking some passages from our principal authors in prose and verse, and marking in italics the Saxon words which they contain. As we have already extended this article to a consis derable length, we cannot enter into a discussion of this concluding chapter : but we must lament that the copious subject of the Anglo-Saxon language should have been dismissed in so concise a manner.

In closing this volume, however, we sincerely acknowlege our obligations to the author for the plea


« AnteriorContinuar »