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VARIETIES OF TENURE.
gation attached to the rent which a conquest had imposed; and the peasant, even if he were free to quit the soil, had little chance of bettering himself, as the market for labour was small, as the difficulty of changing to another lord was great, · and, on the whole, it was preferable to be tenant of a holding rather than swine-herd or bee-herd. As, therefore, the tenants, cotsetlas, geburs, and geneats, were the highest among the semi-servile; the herds or swains, and esnés or daylabourers, were the lowest.1 Lowest of all were the slaves, theows, or thralls, who lay terribly at their master's mercy, and for whom the law was pitiless. They were often sold among the heathen, in despite of law. In the last days of the monarchy, they were bred for the slave-market. Sometimes with the taint of capture or crime upon them, sometimes foreigners from a far land, even Moors, they rather excited aversion than pity. But the duty of setting them free was preached by the better men in the church, and felt by the nobler-minded among the owners; it was no unusual thing to make the offering of a manumission at a shrine, or give freedom in a will.2
While these were the general distinctions of rank in England, there were differences peculiar to certain parts. Radknights, or freemen owing commutable service, and hospites, or military settlers, appear in the Welsh marches, where it was an object to encourage the growth of a free and warlike population. Drenghs or thrings, owing special service to ride as couriers or to keep horses or dogs, were settled on certain estates. For a different reason, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Nottinghamshire, were peopled, thanks to the Danish invasions, by the largest number of freemen, and by the highest class of tenants (soc-men), who owed suit to their lord's court,
1 Rectitudines Singularum Personarum.-A. S. Laws, vol. i., pp. 432-442, where geneat is translated villanus; and esné, inops. Grimm explains it by mercenarius.-Rechts-Alterthümer, p. 304.
2 Cod. Dip., iv., pp. 308-817; vi., pp. 209-212; Canute's Laws, ii., 3; A. S. Laws, vol. i., p. 377; Malmesbury, lib. iii., p. 245; Vita S. Wlstani, Ang. Sac., vol. ii., p. 258.
3 England under the Normans, chap. v.
NATURE OF ANGLO-SAXON LIBERTY.
and were probably bound to garrison his castle, and pray for him, but could transfer, not only their service, but that of their land, to another lord at pleasure. The strictly Saxon counties were those in which there were most slaves, where the tenants were in the worst position, and where the rights of the feudal lord were most rigidly exacted.1 This is partly explained by the fact, that the court resided chiefly in the south, by the more unbroken settlement of the Saxon provinces, and by their neighbourhood to the continent. The distinction is of great importance, for it explains the higher organization by which the Saxon kingdom triumphed over the rest of England, the repugnance of the Anglian districts to Saxon government, and the early rottenness and dissolution of a monarchy that had arrived too quickly at maturity.
It is evident that the bulk of the Saxon people was in no proper sense and at no time free. Even the ceorls were virtually bound down to the soil with the possession of which their rights as freemen were connected, and from which their subsistence was derived. They possessed the great advantage of being tried by local courts; but even this, in all the more important cases, was neutralized by the power of the reeves, who, by the prestige of a royal commission and a strong following, could direct or overrule the decision of almost any meeting. In fact, the spirit-stirring language of the Beverley charter
must be qualified by the consideration that freedom was only another word for privilege. The rights to enjoy old customs, to trade without a tax, to administer jurisdiction within a certain district, to enforce the laws of the trade monopolies, were the liberties for which our ancestors struggled. The peculiar settlement
1 Devonshire, Dorsetshire, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, and Wiltshire. See the tabular statement of the Domesday Census, prefixed to Mackintosh's History of England, vol. i.
2 Cod. Dip., 359. The charter is no doubt spurious, but it expresses the rights of society before the conquest, and the feelings of society shortly after. 3 The citizens of London enjoyed the privilege of trading in every market
EARLY ENGLISH NOBILITY,
of the country, its Saxon police, its Romano-British municipalities, and the need for every man to defend himself in default of any central power that cared for him, all favoured the growth of a vigorous people, doing battle resolutely for what they desired or claimed. But the idea, that any man might go where he would, live as he liked, think or express his thoughts freely, would have been repugnant to the whole tenour of a constitution which started from the Old Testament as a model, supplemented it by Roman law, and regarded the regulation of life as the duty of the legislator. As little can modern notions of equality be transferred to a people who expressed by a tariff their sense of the enormous difference between a nobleman, a freeman, and a tenant. The right of taxing themselves was certainly not possessed by the people; they paid dues of immemorial antiquity, which they could not shake off; and the taxes imposed by the witan, Peter's pence, and Dane-gild, were in the last degree unpopular. The control of public policy belonged to the aristocratic witan. if the different classes of society were not equal, they were separated as ranks, not as castes. Thanks to the many different races, and the gallant rally which each had made for its liberty, the conception of nobility was based in England on real distinctions, on character, or property, or position, selfderived or inherited, and not on the one uncertain test of blood. I do not mean that extraction was not invariably taken into account. The probability that a brave and wise man will have children endowed with like qualities, has always and justly been esteemed a reason for perpetuating rank and its appurtenances in families; but the Anglo-Saxons minimized the risks which attend a nobility of birth, by associating it with certain requisites, without which birth was valueless, while the possession of them conveyed a patent of nobility. The gra
without toll or custom.-Carta Lib. Lund., A. S. Laws, vol. i., p. 503. This was disputed by Abbot Sampson, of St. Edmund's, under Henry II., but the merchants stood sturdily by their rights.-Chron. Joc. de Brak, pp. 45, 46. The privilege of a gallows was sometimes enjoyed by a town, as by Halifax, but the date of this is probably more recent.
HOME LIFE IN ENGLAND.
duated tariff of land, by which a man rose in the social scale,1 was a pretty sure test in rude times, that the new gentleman was one who could hold his own. Moreover, commerce and manufactures, the great sources of wealth and distinction among ourselves, were then comparatively in their infancy; the men who rose from the ranks had commonly served their country in the camp or in the church.
It is difficult to reproduce in thought a picture of England in these old Anglo-Saxon centuries. The reproach of the sixteenth century and our own, that no people are better fed or worse housed, was probably true then. The noble lived in a hall intended, not for defence, but for hospitality, with a chapel attached, and out-buildings for his followers. Hunting and hawking, in woods carefully preserved, occupied the days of peace: Asser relates with wonder that Alfred let his sons learn reading before they were taught hunting and such like “human arts;" and although the grim statesmen of that reign, who groaned in their old age over the alphabet which their master constrained them to study, were probably the last specimens of complete ignorance in the highest places, there is no reason to suppose that book learning ever flourished much among the Anglo-Saxons. Songs and legends were their literature; the laws of their country their philosophy; attendance at mass and at the different gemots made up the whole duty of their civic lives. The worst consequence of this speculative inactivity to a people naturally coarse and gross, was that
1 Ranks: A. S. Laws, vol. i., pp. 191-193. A curious story illustrates this law. A certain Gudmund was attached to a noble Saxon lady, who refused to marry him, on the ground that he had not forty hides of land, and was therefore not of ealdormanic rank (numero procerum). Gudmund persuaded his brother Ulfrie to endow him fraudulently with the proper quantity of land out of the domains of Ely monastery, where Ulfric was abbot.-Hist. Mon. Eliensis, Gale, vol. i., pp. 513, 514. This story has been disputed, but Mr. Thorpe points out a curious confirmation of it. The earl's or ealdorman's heriot in Canute's laws, is to the thane's as eight to one. Now if five hides constituted a thane, for which we have certain warrant, forty would presumably be the appanage of an ealdorman.
2 See a woodcut of an Anglo-Saxon manor-hall, with its owner giving alms at the door, in the Pictorial Hist. of Eng., vol. i., p. 317.
they sunk into evil from the mere want of employment; and the vices of the table prevailed in forms too disgusting to be described. That the poor lived plentifully in good years, is probable; the land was rich, and the food simple, oats, beer, and pork being the common fare; but England no longer exported corn, and famines were frequent and terrible. The vineyards which the Romans had planted survived Saxon and Dane; Gloucestershire was famous for them, and Smithfield was once ruddy with grapes. But gardens were of slow growth, and comparatively few fruits and vegetables had been naturalized. The trade in wool, the only article which was certainly exported to the continent, enhanced the value of sheep, but cattle and horses were probably more prized in themselves,3 and were certainly more costly in proportion, perhaps because they were more difficult to rear. Badly drained, with few hedges, and with uniform forests of one or two varieties of tree, the country in Anglo-Saxon times was less beauti
1 One instance will probably suffice the most curious: Si quis ex ebrietate vel ex satietate eucharistiam evomuerit xl dies jejunet.-Ecgbert, lib iv., 45; A. S. Laws, vol. ii., p. 219.
2 Vopiscus says that the emperor Probus permitted the Britons to have vineyards and make wine.-M. B., lxvi. Vineæ quibusdam in locis germinant.Bede, H. E., lib. i., cap. i. Vineæ fertilis est sed raro.-Huntingdon, lib. i., M. B., p. 693. Malmesbury speaks of the vale of Gloucester as planted thicker with vines than any other part, and producing a wine little inferior to those of France.-Gest. Pontif., lib. iv.; Savile, p. 161. A vineyard at Smithfield is mentioned in a document of Stephen's time.-Rymer's Fodera, New Ed., vol. i., p. 17. It was probably still more ancient, as the Domesday of London passes from the mention of Holborn to a vineyard.-Bawdwen's Domesday, p. 2. There are thirty eight entries of vineyards in Domesday book.-Ellis's Introduction to Domesday, p. xxxvii.
3 Only 250 horses were returned to the Domesday surveys from the whole of Suffolk. Herds of wild mares seem, however, to have been more common.Munford's Domesday of Norfolk, pp. 68-69. The fleece is valued separately at twopence.-Ine, 69, A. S. Laws, vol. i., p. 147. In the ordinances of the Dunsetas, a horse is valued at 150 pence; a mare at 100 pence; an ox at 150 pence; a cow at 120 pence; a swine at 8 pence; a sheep at 5 pence; and a goat at 2 pence. The pound was the old Roman pondus, and as it contained 240 pence, while the pound of silver at present represents 792, we must multiply by 3% to represent the modern equivalent in metal, and further by at least five times that to represent the greater exchangeable value of coin in Anglo-Saxon times.