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Scotland in the Middle Ages
Chapter II - Introductory


Growth of the feudal system — Later Carlovingians without power — The feudal vassals become independent — Countsof Paris — Hugh Capet crowned king of the French — Settlement of the Normans in France — Old Britain; what remains of Ante-Roman Britain — Language, Institutions — The Normans in France — Their change of manners when settled — Readily adopt feudalism and the privileges of seignory — The Romans in Britain — Their civilization — Roman villas in Britain — Roman towns, roads, bridges — Britain Christianized — Roman colonization gave no independence or self-government — Roman civilization obliterated — The Saxons in Britain — Hengist and Horsa apocryphal — Jutes — Angles — Saxons — Other Teutons — Frisians — King Arthur the only British hero — Anglo-Saxon institutions — King — Hereditary nobility, Thane, Alderman — Churl — Serf — Property of the soil — Folcland — Bocland — Subdivisions and meetings — Scir-gemot — Great assembly of the nation — Christianity restored — Wholesale conversions — Edwin of Northumbria — Caefi, the high priest — Rome endeavours to win over the British Bishops — In vain — Saxon missionaries on the Continent — Alfred — Cnut — The Danes and English — The Norman conquest — The Normans in England — Composition of the army of invasion — Causes of its success — Why the Anglo-Saxon language and institutions prevailed over those of the conquerors.

It was vain to hope that any other hand could wield the sceptre of the great emperor; and in the grasp of his feeble and divided successors, his power was rapidly dissipated. But though his kingdom fell to pieces, the effects of his institutions, the spirit of a reign of half a century, directed to the restoration of order and establishment of law, were not altogether lost to the world.

The unhappy system of partition of the succession, was the cause of civil war and unnatural dissension immediately upon the death of Charlemagne. The reign of his son, Louis le Debonnaire, presents the revolting spectacle of a continual struggle between the sons and the father, which resulted in the establishment of independent kingdoms, fluctuating so constantly in their dynasty and their territories, that it would serve but little purpose to enumerate their names. Out of the wrecks of Charlemagne's great Christian empire arose by slow degrees the kingdom and empire of Germany, the kingdom of France, the kingdoms of the Burgundies and Provence.

After the deposition of Charles the Fat, the legitimate son of Charlemagne, and the death of Arnulph, an illegitimate descendant of the great Emperor, the German people, or in other words the five duchies of the Franks, the Swabians, the Bavarians, the Saxons, and the Lorrainers, chose for their emperor, Conrad of Franconia, who was succeeded by Henry the Fowler, Duke of Saxony, and the German throne was occupied by four generations in succession of that Saxon family—a great gain to the cause of civilization, and a proof that the desire of union and steady government planted by Charlemagne had not yet died.

During the confusion of that distracted period, the feudal institutions, which were in their infancy under Charlemagne, grew and spread over Europe with a rapidity that would be marvellous, if we did not consider how singularly adapted the system was, I had almost said how natural, to the circumstances of the dominant tribes in their new settlements. If you picture to yourself a victorious army, which has just won a province in a battle. The general is the first divider of the land. He portions it out among his captains. Each of them subdivides his portion among his subaltern officers. But the country, though won, is not secure. Each captain holds his land, therefore, subject to being summoned by the general, to do service against the enemy in its defence. He makes the same compact with his subalterns, now become his vassals ; and you have already the rude outline of feudalism. I shall have an opportunity of entering into some of its details in our own country hereafter.

Charles the Simple, the grandson of Charles the Fat, and the undoubted male representative of Charlemagne, was acknowledged as king over the country now taking the name of France, in the end of the ninth century, and his descendants continued titular kings till 987. But they were kings in name only, for Brittany, Aquitaine or Guienne, Provence, uniting a part of the ancient kingdom of the Burgundians, had each secured a sovereign independence; and the great feudal vassals, the Counts of Flanders, Champagne, Normandy, Burgundy, Nivernois, the Duke of Gas-cony, the Counts of Anjou, Ponthieu, and Verman-dois, the Viscount of Bourge, the Lords of Bourbon and Couci, exercised all the rights of independent sovereigns, and scarcely, perhaps, acknowledged the king as their feudal superior; so that the kingdom of the Gallo-Franks, or France, as it now began to be called, was limited by the Loire, the Meuse, the Scheldt, and the frontier of Brittany.

In the meantime, an influence was springing up, similar to that upon which the Carlovingian power was at first founded, and the Counts of Paris and Orleans, after repeatedly controlling, if not filling, the throne, at length took the place of the descendants of Charlemagne. Hugh Capet was crowned at Rheims, King of the French, and handing down his crown to his descendants, gave somewhat of stability to the French monarchy.

The powerlessness of the degenerate descendants of Charlemagne had encouraged the settlement of the Northmen, first on the coast, and afterwards in the interior of France: for during the reign of the great Emperor, though that bold and adventurous people had already formed a permanent settlement in England, in France they were only known as the pirate scourges of the coasts. It is surprising how quickly the Northmen adopted the manners and language of the people among whom they had settled as masters. It was the end of the ninth century when the pirate band ascended the Seine. When the envoys of the French king wished to parley with those companions of Rollo or "Hrolf the ganger," who were making dangerous encroachments on his territory, they approached their camp from the opposite side of the river Eure — "Ho!" cried they, "what is your chief's name?" "We have no chief, we are all equal," replied the Northmen. "Why are you come into this country, and what do you want here?" "To drive out the inhabitants," said they, "or to subdue them, and make us a country to dwell in." On that occasion the opposite parties required an interpreter to communicate, and they found a fit one in the famous Hasting, a native of Champagne, who in his youth had joined a party of Northern pirates, and made himself a terrible renown as their leader in England and all over Europe, and afterwards struck a peace with the government of France, submitted to be baptized, and obtained the county of Chartres.

A few years afterwards, when that same colony has wrested from Charles the Simple, the direct descendant of Charlemagne, one of his greatest provinces, observe how their conduct has changed. Now they allow their leader Rollo to take the hereditary Seignory, and he consents to become the vassal of the French king. As part of the treaty, and as plain matter of compact, the new French duke and his followers, now his vassals, agree to receive baptism. A few years more, and Rollo, the old sea-king, pirate, and robber, has settled down into the peaceful and prudent Duke of Normandy. He was particularly distinguished as a great Justicer, and the severe represser of all wandering robbers. Only one small body of the Scandinavian sea-kings had some remaining scruples about baptism, and these were allowed to settle by themselves, round Bayeux, on the Eure, where their little colony, for a few generations, preserved some traces of the old Norse faith and manners. The romance of "Rollo" makes them respond to the war-cry of the Norman chivalry — "Dieu aide!" (God to our help) — by their old country shout of "Thor aide!"

It was easier for the body of the Normans to adopt the system of vassalage and feudal tenures, which, while it placed a lord over them, placed under them the whole natives of the land as their vassals, tenants and serfs. It was with them as with the Franks of old. Every born Norman was esteemed a gentleman. He was free from tax and toll; privileged to kill the game of his forests and the fish of his rivers; privileged to wear arms, and to ride on horseback; privileged to exact service, and lord almost of the life and goods of the race whom the fortune of war had degraded into the tillers of his lands. It thus came to pass, that in an incredibly short space of time, the descendants of the Northmen had adopted the language of Northern France, and all its feudal customs, as well as the system of land tenures, even to an extreme rigour; and, before the period of the conquest of England — only 160 years after their arrival in France as rough and landless Scandinavian pirates, "who knew no country, owned no lord," — they had adopted territorial styles of surname from their baronial chateaus in Normandy, practised the knightly fashions then coming into observance, and affected all the forms and language of infant chivalry.

I have hitherto avoided speaking of the affairs of Britain. During the times we have been passing under review, our island was little mixed up in the politics of Continental Europe. It was not, however, without events of great importance in the history of nations, and of paramount interest to us. Britain had already gone through two great revolutions, involving changes of the dominant race of its inhabitants.

Of the elements of old British society, preserved under the Romans, we learn very little from the Latin writers; and the British accounts have reached us in a form modern and corrupted. In the Lowlands, or large eastern part of Britain, the ancient language probably disappeared early, and has now left no traces. The rivers and mountains, indeed, those eternal features of nature, have preserved their primitive names; and we can count a few places, rare exceptions, still called as they were known to the adventurous merchant before the Roman conquest. We have the Isle of Wight, not much changed from that which the Romans Latinized into Veda; Dover, which they called Dubris; Kent bore the same name two thousand years ago ; and that ancient mart on the Thames, which the Romans tried to re-christen Augusta, has still preserved its more ancient name of London.

Beyond the mountains, and generally on the western side of the island, this is different. Cornwall was called Bretland, or land of Britons, so late as the twelfth century, by the Norse; and until the middle of the sixteenth century, the primitive British or Logrian tongue was spoken there. In Man, it remained longer. In Wales, the Romans never had much footing, and there the British language has kept a stubborn hold. It was the same within time of record in Galloway; and I need not tell you, that beyond the Grampians, the native people preserve their native language.

Somewhat may perhaps be traced of the remains of British institutions as well as language; but it is a difficult and doubtful investigation, and I would only call your attention to that, which is said to be a vestige of ancient British custom, the law of Gavelkind, by which the sons or brothers inherit land equally, without distinction of seniority, of which there are still traces in Wales, in Kent, and in some parts of Northumberland.

The Romans were in Britain about five hundred years. They found it a thickly-peopled and fertile country. The natives of the better part of the island soon amalgamated with them, and enjoyed the protection and civilization that every where accompanied the Roman arms. Before they left it, there were forty-six military stations, and twenty-eight cities of consequence, from Inverness and Perth, to that London, which Tacitus describes as a port famous for its number of merchants and extent of trade. [Londinum copia negoliatorum el commeatunm maxime celebre. — Tacit. An. xiv. 33.] The military force required for the defence of the colony amounted, in general, to 20,000 foot and 1700 horse, and these were not birds of passage, like the troops in our colonies. The sixth legion remained at York as its head quarters for nearly three hundred years. The soil of the country all round is found full of their remains—from statues and altars, down to their domestic furniture, and pottery manufactured with their own stamp (Legio VI.) Its natural fertility and Roman cultivation, soon made Britain the granary of the northern provinces of the empire. The rich country required an immense organization of civilians, magistrates, and tax-gatherers. Its importance as a military station, and, perhaps, the pleasantness of the land, made it a favourite residence of several of the later emperors. Adrian and Severus, Geta and Caracalla, were amongst them; Constantine was born at York, and the Emperor Constantius Chlorus lived and died in Britain.

I do not know that there is anything that gives us a more startling insight into Roman life in Britain, than the villas which have been lately disinterred in several parts of England. One of these, which I have fresh in my recollection, though I visited it many years ago, is in Oxfordshire, upon a haugh more than half surrounded by a little stream, the opposite bank of which, still covered with immemorial copse, defends it from the north and east. The walls can be perfectly traced, and show that the buildings, which never exceeded one storey high above ground, surrounded a small court open to the southern sun. It is for the fancy of the visitor to allot the different apartments, for a library, for banqueting-rooms, and family purposes. All of them were floored with tesselated pavements, of many colours and the most elegant designs, while some were spacious enough to have been employed for the exercises which formed so favourite a part of ancient life. One large room spoke its own history, from the furnace placed below, and innumerable flues marked only alternately with smoke, surrounding a bath large enough for swimming. The water was supplied through a leaden pipe, and, guided by its direction, we traced it to its source, some hundred yards off, in a spring deep and cold and pure as Blandusia. The master of the villa might hunt the boar and the wild bull in the forest which still surrounds that little valley; he might luxuriate beside the cool fountain, upon turf greener than ever adorned the banks of the Anio. Undoubtedly he was a person of taste and cultivation; and the number of similar rural retreats of the Romans through England, speaks a high degree of security and enjoyment, and of the blessings of civilization; especially when we consider, that with the Romans, country life was the exception, and their real home was in cities. We might argue as much from those stupendous roads, which every where intersect the Roman province, if it were not, that these might be chiefly required for maintaining the military communication through the country. The venerable Bede mentions the Roman towns, lighthouses, roads and bridges, as still existing in his time, or the beginning of the eighth century.

But far beyond all the rest for the civilization of Britain, the Roman occupation was the means of introducing into our country the Christian faith. The fostering care of Constantine was prominently felt in Britain. The old places of superstitious worship, whether Roman or British, were consecrated to the service of a purer faith. Out of Bangor, supposed to have been a place of Druidical worship, arose the most ancient of British churches and monasteries, while a temple of Apollo on the bank of the Thames served as the foundation of the Church, which afterwards became the Abbey Church of St. Peter of Westminster; and the Temple of Diana of London, gave place to St. Paul's Cathedral. Three British bishops [Eborius of York, Restitutus of London, and Adelphius of Lincoln.] attended the first council of Aries; and there is reason to believe that there were, even at that period, two other bishops in Britain, one of whom was in Wales and the other in Scotland. In like manner Britain sent three bishops to the council of Ariminum in 359.

The radical defect of Roman colonisation outweighed in the end all those advantages which Britain had derived from her government. She civilized, and perhaps instructed the poor Britons. She taught them to wear clothes instead of the skins of their sheep; refined and cultivated them with education and religion. But Rome withheld from her colonists altogether the employments, the institutions, the organization, which might have prepared them for acting with unity, when forced to act independently. The Roman Code, admirable as it is, knows no higher sanction than — placet principi. It was the policy of Rome, that the subject world should look to her as its centre and sole point of binding attraction, and when the evil days came, and she was obliged to gather in her armies for her own protection, there was no head to guide, no self-reliance, no experience or energy, in the deserted colony : liberty became helplessness ; independence anarchy; and the fabric fell at once to pieces before the onslaught of the more vigorous barbarians.

The Romans had left Britain finally but little before the middle of the fifth century. That was the era of the famous message of the poor Britons to the Consul Aetius — "The barbarians drive us to the sea; the sea to the barbarians." In a century and a half afterwards, the polished language which had been for generations the common tongue, both of the settlers and of the natives, had entirely disappeared. Christianity was forgotten within all that had been the Roman province of Britain, and preserved a faint and struggling existence only in the fastnesses of Wales and Scotland. All the refinements and decencies of life, science, literature, and the arts, sunk at once before the energy and courage of a barbarous enemy. The Britons themselves sunk into a race of cultivators, little removed from hewers of wood and drawers of water, except the few who preserved their independence under the Welsh mountains, or in their aboriginal seats of Gaulish Brittany.

The people called Saxons, had become known in history as early as the second century. They then inhabited the islands at the mouth of the Elbe, and perhaps Holstein and Hadeln, from whence they infested the northern seas as pirates, and made themselves so formidable, that a high military officer of the Roman empire was appointed for repressing them, and bore the title of "Count of the Saxon shore  in the end of the third century. Two other nations, similar in habits, and speaking dialects of the same tongue, were from the earliest time associated with them, and, indeed, pass continually under the common name of Saxons. These were the Angles, from the district of Angeln, now insignificant, but formerly of greater extent, and including Sleswic; and the Jutes, who occupied the northern part of that peninsula, whose coast and islands are so singularly adapted for the purposes of piracy.

I do not think it necessary to detain you to discuss the exact manner and time of the arrival of those new masters in Britain. The popular story of Vortigern, King of the Britons, begging for Saxon assistance, and the sudden and complete success of Hengist and Horsa, are now deservedly viewed with suspicion. The names of these leaders are not mentioned by any writer for nearly three centuries after their supposed era, in connection with the romantic story in which they are now made to figure so prominently; and there is reason to believe, that the Saxon pirates had been making attacks, and even settlements, along the eastern coast of Scotland and England, before Britain was left unprotected by the armies of Rome. After that, for certain, invasions were made rapidly and almost simultaneously by the piratical nations; and in a hundred and fifty years, all that had been Roman of our island had passed under the power of the new invaders. The gradual but constant progress made during that time, in the occupation of many parts of Britain by independent hordes of various races, looks less like a conquest than a progressive usurpation of the British territory.

The Jutes colonized Kent only, a county still remarkable for its peculiar customs, and for what, on a larger scale, might be called its nationality. It alone has a subdivision into six districts, called Lathes, a word unknown in the rest of England, and which appears to be connected with the lething of the Jutish law, in which it means a military expedition, or perhaps the district which might be summoned for it.

The great kingdom of Northumberland, and those of East Anglia and Mercia, that is, the whole of England north of the counties of Hertford, Northampton, and Warwick, was occupied by the Angles. If you examine the maps, or the admirable county histories of that great territory, you will find that the division of counties was into Wapentakes, and not into hundreds, and you will observe many of the names of towns beginning and ending in kirk, while minster is the southern word, and many ending in by (though this termination was given long afterwards by the Danes in Derby).

The remainder of Roman Britain fell to the Saxons, who used the division of Hundreds, instead of the Anglian Wapentakes.

Such I believe to have been the general outline of the settlement of Britain, as gathered from the historians, to whom we owe the little information we have of that time—the laws and customs subsequently found in observance in each district—and the dialects of the three nations, as detected in the written and spoken language of the inhabitants. But I need hardly warn you against expecting precision in tracing the settlements of peoples so rude, so much intermingled from their piratical habits, and speaking a language so nearly identical. There is no doubt, moreover, that besides these leading tribes, others of the Teutonic peoples, and especially many Frisians, joined in the great adventure.

The only hero, whose deeds were memorable enough to be handed down on the side of the Britons, is King Arthur, whose gallant share in the last struggle of his countrymen has associated his name in the traditions of the country, from Cornwall to our own Strathmore. While the old lays of the bards of Wales and Brittany adopted him as their hero, it happened that the first romances of northern chivalry were built upon that foundation, and this accident has brought it about, that king Arthur and the Knights of his Round Table are celebrated in countries and languages to which his was a stranger, and have become the heroes, not of Britain, but of Christian chivalry.

The Saxons of the Continent, the Frisians and the Germanic races who settled in Britain, had no kings according to our sense of the word; [Bede, 5-10] and it was the necessity of a leader in their invasions that induced them to submit to a commander, whom they called Heretoga — army leader — or Ealdorman — a word which has now assumed a more peaceful meaning. The chief military leader of the horde became in time the chief of the settled colony, and borrowed from his Germanic home the sacred appellation of Son of the Nation, which, in Saxon, became Cyning, now King. The king was elective within the range of certain noble families, and whatever preference there might be for sons of a deceased sovereign, the instances are innumerable in which the brothers, as more fit for the management of affairs, were chosen to the exclusion of sons — of which the great Alfred is an example; and the succession of the younger AEtheling, or king's son, is not unfrequent in preference to his elder brother. An affectation prevailed among the later Saxons, of copying the high-sounding titles of the emperors of the East and West, as Augustus, Basileus. [So Edgar, King of Scots, styles himself on his seal—Scotorum basileus.]

The Anglo-Saxon Queen (you are probably aware that queen means wife) was a person of great importance. She was to be chosen from a noble family, and was consecrated and crowned as solemnly as the king, and she was seated beside him in the hall at feasts.

A hereditary nobility is plainly to be traced, in the earlier times asserting its descent from Woden, and afterwards, contented with pushing its pedigree to the Military or the Sea-kings. These were the AEthelings. The leader of a tribe in primitive times was the man, the most venerable for age, and hence Ealdorman was the style of a chief of a great district. This office or dignity was bestowed by decree of the assembly of the people; but in effect and practice, became nearly hereditary. His duty was to lead the district in war, and to govern it in peace, and he had for his support, lands appertaining to the office, and a third of the fines and the profits of the courts, and of the other revenues of the king.

Next in rank were the Gesiths, or Thanes, and although these, like the Ealdormen, acquired their rank by service, there cannot be much doubt that it gradually became hereditary. Indeed the settled state of the country, and the increase of the Saxon population, and more than either, the influence of the Christian clergy, gradually led to the landed property becoming hereditary, and converted nobility by service, into nobility by birth.

Of those with no claim to nobility was the Saxon churl, or freeman, the native Briton (Wealh, literally a foreigner, a Welshman), who might be free and even might hold property; but was of inferior rank and value, according to that most curious system of discrimination, by which the injuries done to a man's person were estimated according to his rank.

The serf (theow, esn), was the lowest class in the Saxon society. They are supposed to have been the descendants of Roman slaves and of the native Britons. The most remarkable circumstance connected with them, is their unequal distribution and the smallness of their number. At the time of the census of Doomsday, their whole number was little more than twenty-five thousand. They were most numerous in the districts, where the British population maintained itself the longest. In Gloucestershire, for instance, there was one slave to every third freeman, and in Cornwall, Devon and Staffordshire, they were as one to five. In the Saxon States and in Kent, the serfs constituted a tenth of the population, and it is exceedingly remarkable, that in the shires of Lincoln, Huntingdon and Rutland, and in the great county of York, not a single slave is registered, and in the neighbouring counties, only a very small number, as in Nottingham, where they appear in the proportion of one to two hundred and fifteen.

The land at its first conquest, and perhaps for some short time afterwards, belonged to the people in common, and it was upon this theory that their system of land rights was founded. The Folcland, or public land, might, however, be occupied in common, or parcelled out to individuals. It could not be alienated in perpetuity, but only for a term or years, or for life, after which it returned to the public. Bocland, or charter-land, was such as was severed by an act of the government, that is, by the king, with the consent of his parliament or witan, from the public land, and so converted into an estate of perpetual inheritance. The former tenure was loaded with services and rents, from which the latter was free.

Many of the shires of England [Kent, Sussex, Essex, Surrey, Norfolk, Suffolk, Devon, and Cambria.] were formed out of the petty kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxons; others from ancient bishoprics—which takes place in those shires that bear the name of their episcopal sees. [Durham, York, Lincoln, Chester, Worcester, Hereford, Oxford.] The shire was divided into hundreds or wapentakes, and those again into tithings, deriving their names from the original number of freemen who composed them. In each of these divisions, bound by an ascertained responsibility of the community and individuals to c each other, there was a head man who assembled his district in courts, at stated times, for its common affairs and for trial of causes. In the mature Anglo-Saxon constitution, there was a meeting of the county court (a gemot of the scir-witan), twice in the year, in which the Ealdorman, afterwards called Earl, along with the Bishop, presided; and the Sheriff (scir gerefa, vice comes), was at first an assessor, and afterwards the presiding officer. The subordinate gemots met oftener.

The witan of the kingdom (the king's high court or parliament) consisted of the great men, whether ecclesiastics or laymen. Nothing of representation, strictly so called, is to be found in Saxon times.

As in none of the subordinate gemots could the head man determine anything but by the advice and with the assent of the assembly; so it was in the national assembly or parliament. The decision of public matters was in no case entrusted to individuals.

The feudal institutions had spread into England during the Anglo-Saxon period, and with them the institutions of chivalry. The lean lands or lent lands of the Saxons were evidently approaching to a sort of feudal tenure. Asser, the biographer of Alfred, speaks of knights and vassals in his time. There is something like the knightly girding with a sword, by AElfred, upon AEthelstan, and an ancient Saxon oath of fealty, preserves the Saxon notion of vassal and superior. ["Thus shall a man swear him; on condition that he me fealty:—By the Lord, before whom this relic is holy, I will be to N. faithful and true, and love all that he loves, and shun all that he shuns, according to God's law, and according to the world's principles (worold-gerys-num), and never, by will nor by force, by word nor by work, do aught of what is loathful to keep as I am willing to deserve, and all that fulfil that our agreement was when I to him submitted and chose his will." The words of the original, of unknown antiquity, are rhythmical and alliterative.—Thorpe's Ancient Laws and Institutes of England, I. 178. ]

I have dwelt upon these details longer than they may appear to deserve, because we cannot but feel an interest in those from whom we inherit our Saxon blood and language; but yet more, because I think we can see, in these early English institutions, the causes why the Norman conquest did not abolish Anglo-Saxonism, as the Saxon possession obliterated everything of Roman Britain. There was something in these institutions of Saxon England themselves that was worth preserving; I think they secured a high degree of personal independence, with safety to the community. They inspired feelings of self-respect, and a sense of the obligations of men as members of society, that fitted them peculiarly in later times for a representative government. They produced that feeling of mutual responsibility and mutual confidence, and that binding together of individuals and communities of the state, which I take to be the chief distinction of Britain. It is this firm coherence, joined to our admiration of that wonderful constitution under which we live, that makes shocks the most alarming pass without injury, and convulsions of public opinion which, in other countries, would shake the state and lead to revolution and blood, end with us in a dissolution of parliament, or a change of ministry.

I have said that the light of Christianity was extinguished in Roman Britain by the conquest of the Saxons. It may indeed have survived among the servile and degraded Britons, who consented to remain among the new lords of their country, and we know that it was preserved in Wales, as it was also in Ireland and Scotland; but the Saxons for more than a century after they had taken full possession of their English home, continued to worship Odin and Thor. When Augustine was sent from Rome Pope Gregory the Great to preach the gospel to the Anglo-Saxons, he required the intervention of Franks as his interpreters. After he had converted AEthelbert of Kent, his people followed the king's example, and in one year more than 10,000 were baptized. Christianity as usual brought civilization in its train, and the first convert of the Saxon princes was the compiler of the earliest code of English laws, perhaps the earliest of those of Northern Europe. In those days, conversions were made often by conquest, often by treaty and bargain. A defeated army acknowledged their gods the weaker, and received the religion of their conquerors, as they submitted to their tribute or levy. So, when a leader consented to be baptized, he led his whole nation with him to the font.

Edwin of Northumbria—known in our romantic ballads as the child of Elle, and who gave name to the Castle of Edinburgh—had been half converted, as we are told, partly by a miraculous interference in his favour, partly, no doubt, through the influence of a Christian wife. He gave his daughter to be baptized, when he was assured that his queen's life was saved in the hour of trial, through the prayers of the Christian Bishop Paulinus; and he promised to renounce his idols and serve Christ, if He would grant him the victory over his enemy Cwichelm, king of the West Saxons, who had tried to assassinate him. He obtained a great victory, and on his return he called a meeting of his friends and great council, and asked their opinion of the new faith. Bede, a venerable authority, details the conference:— Caefi, the high priest, declared that their old religion had no virtue or use; "for," said he, "not one of your subjects has been more zealous than me in the worship of our gods: and there are many who have received greater benefits and honours from you, and prosper more in all their undertakings; whereas, if our gods were of any power, they would rather help me, who have so zealously served them." The priest was satisfied with his own reasoning, and volunteered himself to profane the altars and shrines of the gods, with their enclosures. When the people saw him mount a horse and ride forward, armed for the purpose, Bede tells us that they thought him mad; but they very soon followed his example, and set fire to the place of heathen worship. Edwin was baptized with all his children. The nobles crowded for baptism, and Paulinus was employed in the king's dwelling for thirty-six days, from morning to evening, baptizing the people in the river Glen, the stream which gives name to Glendale. That was but a small part of the effects of the preaching of Paulinus, who was deservedly made the first Saxon Bishop at York, and received the pall of Archbishop from Pope Honorius.

It was necessary in such circumstances to bear with some non-conformity — some backslidings into the old worship, and the ways of their forefathers. And in this, truly, the Church was lenient enough. Gregory, to suit the habits of the Kentish neophytes, forbade the destruction of the old heathen temples, venerated by the people; even their accustomed sacrifices he wished to associate with some of the observances of the Church. But while Pome was  tolerant of laxity in the practice of her neophytes, she never lost sight of her great policy of uniformity in all that touched the doctrines and observances of the Church. With this view, Augustine endeavoured to win over the Bishops of the ancient British Church, who differed from Borne in points that we may indeed think trifling, but which were of no small consequence, when they threatened to found a schism in the Christian Church. The Welsh Bishops met the Roman missionary at a tree which was long afterwards known as St. Augustine's oak, but without coming to any settlement of their disputes. At another conference, which was attended by seven British Bishops, and by the Abbot and several learned monks of Bangor, St. Augustine demanded compliance upon only three points:— To celebrate Easter at the proper season; To perform baptism after the manner of Rome; To join with the Roman missionaries in preaching Christianity to the Saxons. The Britons refused compliance upon all those points, which were perhaps pressed somewhat overbearingly by the Pope's representative, apparently against the conciliating intention of Gregory himself. Augustine denounced against them the judgment of God, for refusing to aid in preaching the way of life to the Saxons, and it was not long after, when the Saxons fulfilled the prediction. "Those who pray against us," said they, "are our enemies, though unarmed;" and they put to death two hundred of the monks of Bangor.

While the recent memory of Saxon oppression led the Welsh Britons to refuse their aid for the conversion of the Saxons to Christianity, no such feeling prevented the Scotch Christians from devoting themselves to the Christianising of the North of England. But I shall have another opportunity of directing your attention to the preaching and success of the followers of St. Columba.

However introduced, Christianity came at length; and if you examine carefully the history of any nation, you will find that, besides higher blessings, it brought in its train three remarkable effects — a tendency to unite — an inclination for kingly governments — and a preference for hereditary institutions. I cannot leave the subject of Christianity among the Anglo-Saxons, without adverting to the number of zealous missionaries whom the Anglo-Saxon Church sent forth, so soon after its own conversion. It seemed as if the Saxons of England thought they could in no way better show their affection to their German fatherland than by communicating to their kinsmen there, the blessing of a revelation which they themselves had so recently enjoyed. Wilbrod of Northumbria, and Winfred, better known by the name of Boniface of Devonshire, in the early part of the eighth century, devoted themselves with the most untiring zeal to the instruction of the German peoples, and each lived to see churches cathedrals, and monasteries, taking the place of Pagan groves and temples; and whole nations, seeking for a succession of teachers from that country which was to them truly the island of saints.

The struggle between the Saxons and Danes brings us acquainted with two of the most memorable men that have stamped their names on English history — Alfred and Cnut. It is no wonder that Alfred should be the hero and idol of Anglo-Saxons. Their leader in the death struggle with the Danes, he had all the national sympathies on his side. He was the champion of Christianity against Heathenesse, as well as the defender of Saxons against their barbarian enemies—their saint as well as their hero. He was their king Arthur, only more fortunate. Neither is it wonderful that on such a hero, succeeding generations should have bestowed honours somewhat exaggerated. He is commonly called the Anglo-Saxon lawgiver; and he collected indeed the laws of former kings of the three principal states, which he governed; but he himself tells us, that he was cautious of inserting enactments of his own, as he was doubtful whether such would be approved by those that should come after him. The division of the country into shires and hundreds, and the introduction of the system of frank pledge, or the system by which every man of a tithing was surety for every other, have been generally attributed to Alfred, apparently without foundation; but after making due discount for those overstatements, enough remains in Alfred to fill us with wonder and admiration. Occupied during the better part of his life in war against an invading enemy, he no sooner had breathing time than he turned himself to the great work of restoring and civilizing his country. His exertions were directed to all objects, and embraced every kind of improvement. He rebuilt the ruined towns ; London itself, which, by the Danish conflicts, was become an uninhabitable pile of ruins, he cleared and rendered fair and habitable; he restored old roads and opened new ones; he encouraged agriculture, and in his own country dwellings, set an example of more convenient and more sightly buildings than the Anglo-Saxons had hitherto used. He reformed the art of ship-building, and provided a navy to cope with all the power of the Northmen. It sounds strange to us now, that he took the seamen for his new ships from the pirates, probably the Frisians, the best sailors of that time. While other Anglo-Saxon kings had taken advantage of the devastations of war, and appropriated to themselves the property of I. monasteries and churches destroyed by the Danes; Alfred followed a nobler policy, in restoring and re-endowing the establishments of religion, and in the utmost munificence and most dutiful service to the Church and Christian preachers. The laws, which he had collected and published, he was careful to enforce; and gave much of his time to hearing of causes and appeals in his own court. He was the enemy of oppression, and, as his biographer calls him, " the only friend of the poor." He maintained a more regular intercourse with Rome than his predecessors, and we must not forget that Rome was the centre of literature and the arts, as well as of religion. He invited learned men to his court, and endeavoured to restore some literature amongst his people, which had so decayed during the Danish war, that, at the time of his accession, very few south of the Humber, and none south of the Thames, knew Latin enough to translate an easy Latin work. You will observe that Asser, his biographer, to whom we owe this information, excepts Northumbria from the censure of such ignorance; and we may hope, that the cloisters of Wearmouth and Durham, where the venerable Bede had studied Lucretius and Homer 150 years before, still preserved some taste and love for letters.

Alfred, from his youth laboured under some unknown disease, and although he is praised for his vigour of body, and practised hunting to please his ( countrymen, his favourite pursuits were of another kind. He purchased privileges for the Saxon school at Rome, and he provided schools in Britain for education, both in Saxon and Latin, and not only for priests, but also for the young nobility, who he was anxious should learn to read and write; and especially that they should learn poems in their mother tongue by heart, before they were distracted by hunting and warlike exercises. I wish I could say with truth that Oxford was one of those schools established by Alfred. I think the evidence unsatisfactory; and, after all, even the honour of such a founder and of so high antiquity, would add but little to the dignity of that famous and venerable university. Alfred surrounded himself with men of learning, and devoted much of his own time to study. From his early youth he had delighted in reading and committing to memory the poems of his native language. He learned Latin when he was thirty-nine years old, and afterwards bestowed much of his time in making translations from Latin into Saxon. He translated Boethius on the Consolation of Philosophy, which, though now so little known, was perhaps the most popular book of the middle ages; and the pastoral letter of Pope Gregory, which must have been translated almost in the last year of his life. The History of the World, by Orosius, he not only translated, hut prefixed to it a description of Germany and the north of Europe, compiled by himself from the narratives of the travellers Wulfstan and Ohthere. Many other works of translation are attributed to Alfred, but upon uncertain foundation, except, however, his Anglo-Saxon version of the history of the venerable Bede — a work which stands high, and almost alone, in the literature of the middle ages.

Alfred died on the 28th of October 901, at the age of fifty-three. We love to trace in him the type of the Anglo-Saxon nature, refined by education, and exalted by religion, by adversity, and trial. His will has been preserved to us.

["On the death of AEthelred, some disputes arose regarding the succession, in consequence of which Alfred caused his father's will to be read before a witena-gemot assembled at Langdene, pledging himself to bear no ill-will towards any one for speaking justly, and beseeching them not to fear declaring according to Folkright; so that no man might say that he had wronged his kin, either young or old.

"After this preamble, the king proceeds to the division of his property. To each of his sons he devises lands and five hundred pounds; to his wife, Ealhswith, and each of his three daughters, certain villages, and one hundred pounds; to AEthelm and AEthelwold, his nephews, and to Osferth, his kinsman, certain villages, and one hundred mancuses each; [The mancus was thirty pence.] to each of his Ealdormen one hundred mancuses; to AEthered, ealdor-man, a sword of a hundred mancuses; to be divided among his followers, two hundred pounds; to the archbishop and three bishops, one hundred mancuses each. Lastly, two hundred pounds for himself and his father, and those friends for whose souls they had both made intercession, to be thus divided: fifty pounds to as many mass priests, fifty to as many poor ministers of God, fifty to the poor, and fifty to the church in which he should rest. "Alfred adds — 'And I will that those to whom I have bequeathed my bocland, dispose of it not out of my kin after their death, but that it go to my nearest relative, except any of them have children, and then it is more agreeable to me that it go to those born on the male side, as long as any of them shall be worthy of it. My grandfather bequeathed his lands on the spear-side, not on the spindle-side; therefore, if I have given what he acquired to any of the female side, let my kinsmen make compensation; and if they will have it during the life of the party, be it so; if otherwise, let it remain during their days as we have bequeathed it.' He then desires his relations and heirs not to oppress any of his people, whether bond or free, nor aggrieve them by exactions of money or otherwise; but that they may serve whatever lord they will." — Thorpes Lappen-berg, II. 81.

In Cnut, whom our historians have named Canute we have the type of a different race. Acquiring the crown by fraud, and securing it by plentiful murders, he yet ruled a people, jealous of him as a foreigner and an enemy, so strenuously, but with such fairness, as to make them happier than they had been lately under their native sovereigns. He was a remarkable instance of a barbarian (for such he was in all respects), — without education, without religion — apprehending by the grasp of his own intellect the conduct that was fittest for his situation when wielding the sceptres of three kingdoms. The savage sometimes shone out in him unmitigated. After his defeat on the river Helga, where he owed his life to his brother-in-law Ulf Jarl, he retreated to Roskilde to spend his Christmas, but out of humour for the festivities of the season. On Christmas eve, Ulf gave a great entertainment, and the brothers-in-law began to play chess. Cnut was inattentive, and lost a knight; hut refused to give it up. Ulf rose from the table, and in making for the door, threw down the board. "Ho! coward Ulf! are you running away?" cried the king. "Not so far or so fast as you would have run," said Ulf, "when I rescued you at the Helga, where the Swedes were cudgelling you." Cnut went to bed; but next morning he gave orders to a servant, — "Go and stab Ulf." The man returned and told him that the Jarl had fled to the church of St. Lucius. But what was the protection of the church to the savage Cnut ? He called to a Norwegian, named Ivar Huida: "Go, stab the Jarl dead." Ivar went, found Ulf in the choir, and ran him through with his sword. To his widowed sister Cnut paid a blood-fine of two provinces.

Though thus ferocious, Cnut was a stern administrator of the laws; and for enforcing them, used to journey through his English states, attended by his councillors and scribes. He has left us a large body of laws for the regulation and protection of the Church and clergy, and he distributed with impartia- lity their several rights to the Saxons and Danes. We cannot attribute to him much true religious feeling, and he was exempt from all superstition 5 but he had a just sense of the interest of his people, and therefore he protected religion, and favoured and enriched the clergy. He preferred England to his Danish dominions, and the English people learned to look upon the stern Dane as their friend and good king.

After his journey to Rome, he sent a letter to his English subjects, which has been preserved, and some part of which is very remarkable. It was sent by the hands of Living, the abbot of Tavistock, afterwards the bishop of Crediton.

["Cnut, king of all England and Denmark, and of part of Sweden, to AEthelnoth, the metropolitan, and AElfric of York, and to all bishops and primates, and to the whole nation of the English, both noble and ignoble, wishes health. I make known to you that I have lately been to Rome, to pray for the redemption of my sins, and for the prosperity of the kingdoms and peoples subject to my rule. This journey I had long ago vowed to God, though, through affairs of state and other impediments, I had hitherto been unable to perform it; but I now humbly return thanks to God Almighty for having in my life granted me to yearn after the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and every sacred place within and without the city of Rome which I could learn of, and, according to my desire, personally to venerate and adore. And this I have executed chiefly because I had learned from wise men that the holy Apostle Peter had received from the Lord the great power of binding and loosing, and was key-bearer of the celestial kingdom; and I therefore deemed it extremely useful to desire his patronage before God.

"Be it now known to you that there was a great assembly of nobles at the Easter celebration with the Lord Pope John and the Emperor Conrad, to wit, all the princes of the nations from Mount Gargano to the nearest sea, who all received me honourably, and honoured me with rich gifts. But I have been chiefly honoured by the Emperor, with divers magnificent presents, as well in golden and silver vases, as in mantles and vestments exceedingly precious."

"I then complained to the Lord Pope, and said that it greatly displeased me, that, from my archbishops such immense sums of money were exacted when, according to usage, they visited the apostolic see to receive the pall; and it was agreed that thenceforth such exactions should not be made. And all that I have demanded for the benefit of my people from the Lord Pope, from the Emperor, from king Rudolf, and from the other princes through whose territories our way lies to Home, they have freely granted."

"Now, then, be it known to you that I have vowed, as a suppliant from henceforth, to justify in all things my whole life to God, and to rule the kingdoms and peoples subjected to me justly and piously, to maintain equal justice among all; and if through the intemperance of my youth, or through negligence I have done aught hitherto contrary to what is just, I intend with the aid of God to amend all."

"I therefore wish it to be made known to you, that returning by the same way that I departed, I am going to Denmark for the purpose of settling with the Counsel of all the Danes, firm and lasting peace with those nations which, had it been in their power, would have deprived us of our life and kingdoms."

"I therefore conjure all my bishops and ealdormen, by the fealty which they owe to me and to God, so to order that before I come to England, the debts of all which we owe according to the old law be paid; to wit, plough-alms, and a tithe of animals brought forth during the year, and the pence which ye owe to St. Peter at Rome, both from the cities and villages; and in the middle of August, a tithe of fruits, and at the feast of St. Martin the first fruits of things sown, to the church of the parish in which each one dwells, which is in English called coric-sceat. If when I come, these and others are not paid, he who is in fault shall be punished by the royal power severely, and without any remission. Farewell."—Lappenberg, II. 212.]

The invasion of the Danes, however productive of suffering, and often threatening ruin to the very-existence of the English nation, did not eventually produce much change upon the established institutions. As soon as the Danish freebooter had acquired an interest in the soil, and settled his family in the fields or towns of England, he conformed readily to the usages and laws of a people of kindred origin and manners, and almost common language. "Scarcely," says an old chronicler, "was there one village in England in which the Danes were not mixed with the English." The same author gravely relates "that the Danes bequeathed to England legacy . . . their custom of drinking fair." I fear the Saxons were willing and apt pupils.

I must not indulge myself by dwelling longer on the English portion of British history — a history full of interest in itself — crowded with romantic incident, and where the details are gathered from those simple unsuspected sources, the most fascinating reading, those contemporary chronicles of which France and England are so rich, and we so poor. The "study would be fascinating from the mere dramatic interest, the bold and truthful outlines of individual character, the scenes full of high passion, and all the materials of deep tragedy. But to us Britons, to us Scotchmen, bound now for ever to the fortunes of mighty England, bearing with her the burden, sharing with Englishmen their noble birthright — each event, each apparently insignificant accident, assumes an importance beyond the rise and fall of empires, if it can be traced as the remote cause of any of the steps of progress, any of the peculiarities of our revered constitution.

I might perhaps have an excuse for dwelling at greater length on the Norman conquest — an event that very speedily affected the institutions of Scotland, though producing no 'change in its dynasty — but I feel that I must press forward to that which I have prescribed to myself, as my proper and peculiar object.

When William of Normandy had proclaimed his crusade against England, and prevailed with the Pope (or rather with Hildebrand, the scheming prelate who then ruled the Roman councils as effectually as when he afterwards consented to wear the tiara as Pope Gregory the VII.) to bless his banner; there was no dearth of allies and assistants. Every man had heard of the riches of England; its cities crowded with trade; its fields covered with corn and sheep and cattle ; its lordly castles and fat monasteries. Every needy adventurer who hoped to make his fortune by his sword; every younger brother who aspired to wed a wealthy Saxon heiress—all came to his summons and all were welcomed, provided they were tall men of their hands — good men at arms — "proceri corpore, prae-stantes robore." One churchman, Remi de Feschamp, who had raised twenty men-at-arms and provided a ship for the expedition, had a promise of an English bishoprick, and obtained it. [Bishopric of Lincoln.] Among the crowd of adventurers, we are interested in two youths, Brian and Allan, two of the sons of Eudes, Governor, or as we should say Tutor, during the minority of his nephew the Count of Bretagne. They were called by their own people, in their own Celtic tongue, Mac-tiern — the sons of the chief. We can conceive the feelings with which those youths embarked on the high enterprise, to recover their ancient birthright in England, and to take vengeance on the Saxons, who had expelled their forefathers.

It would exceed my limits to enter upon the inquiry as to the cause of the success of the Normans in England, and why the country, which had struggled so stubbornly against defeat and disunion in the Danish invasions, seemed to peril its existence now on the issue of one battle, and having lost it, to submit slavishly to a mere handful of invaders. The intrigues of Rome had some effect, and yet more, the Norman feeling, so unhappily spread through the English clergy since the time of the Confessor.

When the rashness of the gallant Harald had thrown away his kingdom and his life, and made a handful of Norman cavaliers lords of broad England, most of the phenomena were renewed which had rendered their occupation of Normandy so remarkable. They had, in the century and a half of their occupation of France, acquired a new language; and the Norman-French they had so lightly adopted, was for a time the only tongue for a gentleman, while Saxon was the mark of the Franklin and Churl. They had brought with them the newest customs of feudalism, and found the Norman tenures well fitted for oppressing the native occupants of the soil. They brought their laws of the game, their cruel forest law. They imported all that they had learned in their short sojourn in France. But they were scarcely well embued with those French institutions. They had not elaborated laws to suit their own position. Their customs of chivalry were merely caught by contagion. Their language they had not cultivated. No chronicler or poet had yet sung of the French Normans, or given stability or precision to their dialect. All this contrasted remarkably with the situation of their new subjects. The Anglo-Saxon language had been long cultivated in prose and poetry, and was endeared to the people, from having been written by their great Alfred and by the fathers of their Church, before any other vernacular tongue of Europe had been studied by the learned. Their laws, too, had been methodised, and gave a definite protection to the person and property ; and their institutions were eminently those of free men. For centuries afterwards, when Englishmen, roused by oppression, shouted a general claim of right, it was, that they might be governed by the laws of Alfred and of Edward the Confessor. There was an earnestness in the people that gave a zeal to their nationality before which the novel customs of the Normans could not long stand. As had happened to the Normans before, and as had happened in similar cases since the days of the Roman conquest of Greece, the cultivated and written language prevailed over the rude and unwritten, and the institutions of the civilised subjects modified and refined the customs of the barbarous conquerors.

I confess that even these causes do not quite account for the rapid recovery by the English of their rights and privileges under their new masters. With all the haughty Norman oppression which our English chroniclers so condemn, there was plainly no attempt at extermination, nor even an effort to degrade the old occupants into a servile condition. That is proved even by the number of the Norman chiefs, who made their fortunes by marrying Saxon heiresses. Perhaps the conquerors at length felt some sympathy with their kinsmen of the old Teutonic race. Perhaps they found it dangerous to press to extremity, a gallant, a numerous, and united people.


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