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tattila," It was hastened on he hour of power was
ards of Hengist and Cerdic, of Ella and Edda, to the island where their descendants were destined to play such a part in the drama of history. The mighty heart of Rome had nearly ceased to beat, and the life-blood of her power was no longer sent to the extremities. The hour of her final agony was drawing nigh, hastened on by the hordes of Genseric and Attila. It was in all parts of Europe a time of confusion and turmoil, but it witnessed the birth of the modern world. The Burgundians and the Visigoths had encamped in southern Gaul and Spain. The shadow of the Roman power still lingered in northern Gaul under the administration of the Patrician Ætius. The Ripuarian and Salian Franks were gathering their tribes on the western banks of the Rhine, soon under Clovis to smite down the Romans at Soissons and the Visigoths at Vouglé, and lay the foundations of the empire of St. Louis and Napoleon. The very year before the landing of the Saxons in Britain, if we may trust the uncertain chronology of this dark and turbulent period, the great question had been decided on the plains between the Seine and the Marne, whether the Mongol or the German should give law to the forming empires of western Europe. Attila, the “Scourge of God," was met at Chalons, and, in that dreadful battle whose story is invested with such horror by the poets and chroniclers of the time, driven back finally from the West. The century during which, if we follow the chroniclers, the Saxons were effecting the conquest of Britain, was rendered memorable in the Eastern Empire by the reign of Justinian, the codification of the Roman law, and the shortlived triumphs of Belisarius and Narses. It was an age of movement and disorder and apparent confusion. But in the midst of these chaotic elements we can now see the workings of Providence. These masses of barbarian life were soon to arrange themselves into strata of races, and harden and crystallize into the crust of modern society.
It is foreign to our present purpose to enter into an ethnographical examination of the number and relative proportion of the elements which have contributed to form the English race. It is enough for our present purpose to state what will be admitted by all-that the mixture of Saxon, Norse, and Frisian elements called, as we have already hinted, Anglo-Saxon, is that which has given character to, or absorbed all others. It has overlaid the Celtic below it, and absorbed the Norman above it, while it has pervaded and given character to every thing that is distinctive in English social life, polity, language, and literature. The ancient Britons have given very little of the
at a later period them and the Dawere enslaved in the
form and pressure to English law, government or character. We suppose, though contrary to the general opinion, that large numbers of the Celtic inhabitants were enslaved in the centuries of war between them and the Danes and Saxons, and formed at a later period the body of Theows in Saxon times, and the serfs that cultivated the feudal acres under the successors of the Conqueror—the "villains 'regardant," and " villains in. gross," described by Littleton—and still later the poorer tenants at will and the holders of small farms by servile tenure. The Norman-French army of William, in connection with the few wealthy Saxon families who managed by timely submission to save their estates, formed the old feudal nobility and gentry, and are to this day represented by the more ancient noble and gentle English families. If we may credit the account of William of Malmsbury, the Normans were superior in education and cultivation of the arts of civilized life to the Anglo-Saxons. Having been placed by the events of the Conquest in the position of lords of the land, freed from all apprehension of want and from the necessity of labor so long as the ascendency of their own race should continue, they necessarily were soldiers and politicians. The high places in the Church, too, were filled by those of the dominant race whose cupidity or ambition could be thus gratified. The Normans, thus holding the soil of England by conquest, and consequently all offices of emolument and honor and trust, gained power by the exercise of their faculties, and for a time outstripped the ruder Saxons in the march of civilization and improvement. They formed what in the language of Burke may be called “the Corinthian capitals of society." They have given tone to the order which they founded, and as in the process of time men of talent have fought and forced their way from other races into the ranks of the English nobility, they have become imbued with the old Norman traditions, and become partakers of the spirit of those fierce barons who received the titles to their broad acres from the sword of the Conqueror. Though much that is great and worthy in the English annals is connected with this race, it cannot be denied that they have been in every age, as a whole, the oppressors of the people. They have had interests apart from the body of the nation. They have been a foreign element in the State. The spirit of caste, their landed estates, their hereditary privileges, have placed them under the most powerful temptations to be recreant to the cause of progress and freedom. Whoever from their ranks espouses heartily and efficiently the cause of the people, is so
far false to his order and to his own family interest. Every step of real advance on the part of the masses of the English population, renders the hold of the nobles upon their privileges less strong.
Beneath these Corinthian capitals of English society, stand the plain shafts of the columns of English power—the middling interest, those who form the rank and file of the nation, the substantial citizens and merchants in the towns, and the yeomanry in the country. These are the representatives of the Anglo-Saxon portion of the population. This class have, in every age, been the depositaries of those privileges and principles, those aspirations after liberty and that jealousy of oppression, that are birthrights and characteristics of the « true-born Englishman.” This portion of the English people has infused its spirit into the lower orders, who are the descendants of the old servile part of the population, and have continually assisted them in forcing themselves upward, and in claiming their proper influence in society and government. These men, intermediate between the other two strata of English society, have formed the House of Commons. They consolidated the Reformation. They smote down Charles I. and Laud. They carried the Petition of Right. They formed the armies of Cromwell. They expelled the Stuarts. They have emancipated the Catholics.
They have passed the Reform Bill, and repealed the Corn Laws. We do not mean to intimate that members of the patrician order have not contributed, more or less, to all these objects, but the body of the nobility have been their opponents.
Doubtless the distinction of races in England has been made to account for too many facts by such men as Michelet and Thierry, and we are not unaware that historical generalizations, like all others, contain in them an element of error, inasmuch as they are inadequate statements of separate facts in the same degree that they are general. Individual exceptions to these statements occur spontaneously to the minds of all persons at all familiar with English history; still we believe that an accurate classification of all the known facts will sustain the views which we have given. English historians do not, for obvious reasons, wish to give prominence to the facts which show that the distinction of orders and privileges in their constitution, had its origin in a barbaric conquest, in which justice and mercy were alike disregarded. Nevertheless we should remember that. the person who in modern times most successfully directed attention to this view of the distinctions in English society, was a high
Tory and a profoundly learned black-letter scholar-the Wizard of the North—the author of Ivanhoe. Thierry, who acknowledges Scott as his master, has given for his views an array of authorities more copious than any historian of that period; and we are not aware that any formal refutation of the general views of Thierry has been attempted, further than is implied in the suggestion of modifications where the French love of generalization has carried him too far. It should be borne in mind, also, that the statements which we make have reference to the English part of England, exclusive of any discussion of the influence of that portion of the Celtic inhabitants who made their strongholds of the mountains of Wales and Cumberland.
In the process of centuries, these two strata of population have nearly changed places. The shrinking and fearful commoners, who were summoned “ad consentiendum” merely as a form, who debated on matters of state in constant peril of their ears or the dungeons of the Tower, have become the great power in the State. The lords, once the great hereditary council of a monarch nearly absolute, now find their chief duty to consist in feeble attempts to clog the action of the lower house, or in quietly registering its decrees. In spite of all its ancient glories, the House of Peers has become a mere nullity in the majestic presence of the Commons of Great Britain. Whatever may be said of the ainalgamation of the Norman and Saxon races in England, no one can deny that their spirit and traditions are severally retained by the nobility and commonalty of the present day. The watchwords, the feelings, the inner life of these two classes, are as really Norman and Saxon as they were in the days of William Rufus or Richard Plantagenet. The life of races outlives centuries of revolution, of progress and change.
Again, the colonies of England have gone forth mainly from the Anglo-Saxon portion of her people. The nobility and gentry have had in general no motive for leaving permanently their native country, and until lately the ancient seryile portion wanted the means and the enterprise to emigrate. This naturally leads us to speak of ourselves as a part of the English race. We are too much accustomed to speak of our countrymen as a separate people from those of the mother land. But, however we may be separated from her by the broad Atlantic, and distinguished by a part of our religious and political institutions, we cannot forget that not only our language and literature, but all the essential foundations of our social and political fabric, belong not so much to us as to the race of which we form a part. Moreover, our institutions and national character have been drawn pre-eminently from that element which makes up the great middle class of English society.
The struggle between the Puritans and Cavaliers was, in its leading features, marked by the original distinction between Saxon and Norman. While we admit that there were individual instances in which this distinction will not hold, we still believe that the great body of the supporters of Charles I. and Laud were representatives either in blood or spirit of the old Norman families. It is true that the lowest portion of the peasantry followed in general the opinions of the landed gentry and nobility, whose tenants they were, with a sort of mechanical stupidity, and were good Protestants under Edward VI. and good Catholics under Mary. But this was by no means true of the best portion of the middle class. The stronghold of Protestantism at the Reformation, and of Puritanism during the Commonwealth, was among those who formed the middle stratum of the English population, the sturdy descendants of the Anglo-Saxons, at an equal remove from degradation on the one hand, and effeminate refinement on the other. It was from this portion of the English people that the great mass of the colonists of America sprung, and though other races have mingled freely with them, they have given the stamp to our national life and character. The American colonists then as a body have sprung from the heart of the English nation, not from the highest nor from the lowest portion in point of rank, but from those who have been the originators and guardians of all that is noble in the career of England. The United States then is another England, relieved from the crushing weight of an Aristocracy and a State Hierarchy on the one hand, and from the servile and degraded poor that lie at the base of the social fabric on the other. We are sprung from the best blood of the race, the solid, hardy, liberty-loving Anglo-Saxons, having a slight intermixture of the Norman and Celtic, to give life and mobility to the less showy, but more manly and vigorous original stock.
We have no sympathy with that false patriotism that affects to consider it disgraceful to owe the foundation of our literature and character and political institutions to the noble land of our fathers. Our national recollections, our great ideas are a common inheritance that has not been divided among the heirs. Our fathers sat in the Witenagemotes of Alfred, they fought with Harold at Hastings, and rallied in the ranks of the retainers of the Barons at Runnymede-they charged the French