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reference mainly to the land, while the Tithing and Hundred formed a system of personal governments for keeping the peace. The nature of their connection with each other it is perhaps impossible definitely to ascertain.
Thus much, however, is certain, that in each case the power was exercised by the body of the freemen, and the tithing men or chief pledges and judges of the hundred court were in theory elected by them, and all variations from this were of the nature of usurpations. In these courts, springing from the local wants of the country, all the freemen met to assist in the dispensation and execution of justice, and in the enactment of such “by-laws” or town laws as were necessary for the common good. Here, with a few exceptions, their magistrates were elected, and all government not strictly national in its character, or which was not of the nature of a judicial appeal, was carried on. The great Witenagemote of the kingdom was a repetition of the same idea on a large scale. What the tithing man was to the tithing, the gerefa or reeve to the shiremoot or hundred court, the king was to the Witenagemote or general assembly of the kingdom. Each of these larger divisions seems to have been a natural expansion of the smaller, as the increase of population on the same territory, and the complexity and importance of public interests, from time to time, demanded. Of the servile population, and the process by which the working of this polity, under the influence of Christianity, effected their emancipation, we cannot now speak. Our purpose is a general one, and to those points alone which bear upon it, can we direct attention.
That the same general local system of polity pervaded the Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian nations, we think all will admit.
Even the organization of the cities and boroughs seems to have arisen from the same system of local governments. The separate jurisdiction of the aldermen in their wards, and their union with a portion of the “good men and true” of the inhabitants of each ward, and with the Port Reeve or Mayor, show evident traces of the deep-seated political ideas of the race. In old Saxony there are indications of the prevalence of the same ideas. The Gau or district described by Tacitus existed till it was destroyed by the wars of Charlemagne and the feudality of the Holy Roman Empire. The Gaugrave held a Gauding or Moot every six weeks. To this court all the tenants owed suit and service. From an attention to many facts it cannot be doubted that the original constitution of the old Saxons included an election of a territorial municipality. In the “Marches” of the bishopric of Osnaburg, many townships elected their Holtzgraves as late as the end of the 18th century. In the estates of the abbey of “ Corbey,” a court called the Wruge Gericht was held once a year in the open air, and presided over by a Richter or judge chosen from among the “Landsfolk.” We see the same idea in the “Malberg" or mount of council of the old Frankish chiefs, where the freemen of the tribe met for the dispensation of justice, and consultation on the matter of peace and war. It also appears among the Visigoths in Spain. The free constitution of Arragon resulting from this Gothic idea has been noted by all historians of that monarchy.
Although we can only examine the Gothic polity by fragments, yet we are abundantly justified in the conclusion that it was essentially republican in its idea and spirit. We look upon the Saxon Octarchy as a body of rude republics, made up of confederated yet partially independent frankpledges, tithings, hundreds and shires. The king and Witenagemote were substantially a president with limited powers, and a supreme congress of the estates of the realm. This local government has been lost in nearly all the great Gothic states, except in those of the English race, and supplanted by the Roman system of imperial centralization. In England this was partially effected by the Norman conquest and the influence of the Roman clergy.
Beneath the Norman king, strengthening his claim by the imperial traditions brought by the priests from the Vatican, and the iron framework of mail-clad barons which the victory of William fastened upon England, there has ever beat the mighty heart of the Saxon race, heaving with love for those institutions which brought justice to every man's door, and secured to all a trial by their neighbors, where their character could have its due weight in estimating their guilt or innocence. It was the principles of the Gothic polity that the barons availed themselves of in their struggles against the king. And while they claimed the ancient rights and privileges of Englishmen at Runnymede solely for themselves, without the most distant regard to the rank and file of their vassals, so potent was the influence of the principles of Magna Charta, that they have wrought out the emancipation of all classes, and made the “liber homo” commensurate with the population of the British empire. Our space will not permit us to chronicle the fortunes of the various elements of the Saxon polity under the Plantagenets and Tudors. Sheriffs of counties were elective till the time of Edward II., when on the plea that the popular
elections were tumultuous the right of electing them was given to the chancellor, treasurer and judges. Coroners, also, are still elected by freeholders in the county court. Justices of the peace were mainly elective till the time of the usurpation of Edward III., when by act of Parliament it was ordained “that trusty men,” that is, men in the interest of the new king, " should be assigned to keep the peace.” These new justices were appointed under the great seal by the king, and the custom still remains. Although the trial by jury, in the modern sense of the terms, was not perfected till about the beginning of the fifteenth century, it is an undoubted remnant of the old hundred courts of the Saxon age. Though when we look at the imperfection of the Saxon mode of trial by compurgators, and compare it with modern usages, we may wonder at the attachment of the English people to it; still, in the words of Hallam, “ We have but to place ourselves for a few moments in imagination among the English of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and we may better understand why they cherished and panted for the judicium parium or trial by their peers, or, as it is emphatically styled, trial by the country. It stood in opposition to foreign lawyers and foreign law, to the chicane and subtlety, the dilatory and expensive, though accurate technicalities of Normandy, to tribunals where their good name could not stand them in stead, nor the tradition of their neighbors support their claim. For the sake of these, for the maintenance of the laws of Edward the Confessor, as in pious reverence they termed every Anglo-Saxon usage, they were willing to encounter the noisy rudeness of the county court, and the sway of a potent adversary."
As there have been in England, since the Norman conquest, two races in spirit and feeling, if not always absolutely in blood, so have there been two systems of polity; the one a monarchy founded in a conquest, and imbued with the absolute ideas of the Roman civil and canon law, and surrounded by an aristocracy whose ancestors had won their lordships by the sword or received them as a gift from the monarch. The other system has been that which our rude German and Scandinavian fathers brought with them from the Elbe and the Baltic. It is a republican system substantially, the primary elements of which were the frankpledge, the tithing, the hundred, the shire where all local laws were made, and where justice was administered by the freeholders in their primary capacity. These assemblies delegated their power from circle to circle, till it reached the great assembly of the “ Witan” of the country, who chose the king or confirmed his election,
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defined his power, and assisted him in making treaties and exercising all the legislative and judicial functions not performed by the local courts.
These two systems have acted and reacted on each other; the one has furnished the republican and the other the despotic element in the English government. Various circumstances in the course of centuries have given sometimes to one and sometimes to the other the predominance. The Conquest was the triumph of Roman imperial centralization. England was given to William under the seal of the Fisherman. A consecrated banner waved over the horde of Norman robbers who landed at Pevensey. Saxon bishops were replaced by the creatures of the Conqueror and the Pope, who thought more of the punctual payment of Peter-pence than of the liberties of England. Saxon monks rebelled against their Norman abbots. Saxon clergymen refused to bow to the wolves who devoured the flock of God, to bishops who, clad in armor, as members of the Church militant in more senses than one, had swung battle-axes and couched lances against their brothers at Hastings. The spiritual power of Lanfranc, by its control over the conscience, at length consolidated the power of the Conqueror, and the Normans in turn became the fast friends of the Church. Centralization, promoted and strengthened by both crosier and sword, held its sway till Magna Charta was wrested from the pusillanimous John. Again it was weakened by the wars of the Roses, and recovered new vigor under the strong-minded and tyrannical Tụdors. During this whole period the traditions of Saxon liberty were remembered and cherished in the hearts of the people. Beneath the iron aristocracy and imperial absolutism of the age of the Plantagenets and Tudors, the smouldering fires of republicanism were ever alive and burning. Under the Stuarts, Romanism and Saxonism measured their strength in deadly conflict, and when the cannon of the Parliament had blown into fragments the aristocracy and court, we find the materials for the glorious Commonwealth rising into view, as fresh and vigorous as when "England's darling” Alfred wore his crown in the midst of the great assembly of his “ Witan” and clergy, and “God's people” from all parts of the realm. Every real advance of the English people towards liberty in modern times, has been made by reviving the spirit of the old polity of the AngloSaxons.
However much we may see that is defective in the constitution of England, thus much we are certain of, that it has within it the germs of popular liberty. The basis of repre
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sentation must continually grow wider. Aside from the wealth of its members, the House of Lords is a mere pageant. It is the peerage that seeks men of talent now in England, not they the peerage. Since the memorable discomfiture of the House of Lords at the passing of the Reform Bill, the ablest of its members has not a tithe of the power that Sir Robert Peel as a simple gentleman wields over the minds and motives of the stormy House of Commons. The truth is, that amid the pomp and cumbrous phraseology of Royalty we are apt to forget that the monarch of the British empire is a mere image of straw, the shadowless ghost of a departed substance—that for all practical purposes England is a vast aristocratic republic, of which the First Lord of the Treasury is Doge or President. What Englishman in matters of government cares for the opinions of her gracious Majesty Queen Victoria? We believe that a few years ago she was at one time a little obstinate about the removal of her bedchamber women. At present we think that her empire does not extend much beyond his Royal Highness Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg. In that small empire, if all accounts may be relied on, she is somewhat absolute.
But it is to our own country that we must turn if we would study in its happiest examples the polity of the ancestors of the English race. We have already said that the American colonists sprung from the middle—the Saxon stratum of English society. They emigrated at a period when society was stirred to its very depths by the terrible reaction of the old Saxon ideas and traditions against the centralism of the Stuarts. Like the fugitives from burning Troy, they brought the Palladium of their liberty with them across the Atlantic ; they left behind them the hierarchy that lorded it over God's heritage, the aristocracy that devoured their substance, and the monarch that corrupted the fountains of justice, and set at naught the liberties of Englishmen. They re-established in New-England the elements of the Gothic civil polity, the confederation of local governments. This is the very key to the understanding of the whole social organization of the colonies.
The school distinct, the parish, the town meeting, the county court, were the units out of which our fathers built the State. Whoever will examine the old province laws of Massachusetts, and compare them with the Anglo-Saxon institutions, will be surprised at their coincidence in spirit, and often in form. The organization of towns and parishes ; the powers of magistrates, the mode of choosing them ; the influence of
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