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laws of the Conqueror became still more tyrannically executed, -the confederacy, for which the general oppression had paved the way, instantly took place. The lord, the vassal, the inferior vassal, all united. They even implored the assistance of the peasants and cottagers; and the baughty aversion with which on the continent the nobility repaid the industrious hands that fed them, was, in England, compelled to yield to the pressing necessity of setting bounds to the royal authority.
The people, on the other hand, knew that the cause they were called upon to defend was a cause common to all; and they were sensible, besides, that they were the necessary supporters of it. Instructed by the example of their leaders, they spoke and stipulated conditions for themselves: they insisted that, for the future, every individual should be entitled to the protection of the law; and thus did those rights with which the lords had strengthened themselves, in order to oppose the tyranny of the crown, become a bulwark which was in time to restrain their own.
A second Advantage England had over France:-it
formed one undivided State.
It was in the reign of Henry the First,
, about forty years after the conquest, that we see the above causes begin to operate. This prince, having ascended the throne to the exclusion of his elder brother, was sensible that he had no other means to maintain his power than by gaining the affection of his subjects ; but at the same time he perceived that it must be the affection of the whole nation : he, therefore, not only mitigated the rigour of the feudal laws in favour of the lords, but also annexed as a condition to the charter he granted, thạt the lords should allow the same freedom to their respective vassals. Care was even taken to abolish those laws of the Conqueror which lay heaviest on the lower classes of the people.
Amongst others, the law of the Curfeu.- It might be matter of curious discussion to inquire what the AngloSaxon government would in process of time have become, and of course the government of England be at the pre
Under Henry the Second, liberty took a farther stride; and the ancient trial by jury, a mode of procedure which is at present one of the most valuable parts of the English law, made again, though imperfectly, its appearance.
But these causes, which had worked but silently and slowly under the two Henries, who were princes in some degree just, and of great capacity, manifested themselves at once under the despotic reign of king John. The royal prerogative, and the forest laws, having been exerted by this prince to a degree of excessive severity, he soon beheld a general confederacy formed against him :and here we must observe another circumstance, highly advantageous, as well as peculiar to England.
sent time, if the event of the conquest had never taken place; which, by conferring an immense as well as unusual power on the head of the feudal system, com-. pelled the nobility to contract a lasting and sincere union with the people. It is very probable that the English government would at this day be the same as that which long prevailed in Scotland (where the king and nobles engrossed, jointly, or by turns, the whole power of the state); the same as in Sweden, the same as in Denmark, --countries whence the Anglo-Saxons came.
England was not, like France, an aggregation of a number of different sovereignties : it formed but one state, and acknowledged but one master, one general title. The same laws, the same kind of dependence, consequently the same notions, the same interests, prevailed throughout the whole. The extremities of the kingdom could, at all times, unite to give a check to the exertions of an unjust power. From the river Tweed to Portsmouth, from Yarmouth to the Land's End, all was in motion : the agitation increased from the distance, like the rolling waves of an extensive sea; and the monarch, left to himself, and destitute of resources, saw himself attacked on all sides by a universal combination of his subjects.
No sooner was the standard set up against John, than his very courtiers forsook him. - In this situation, finding no part of his kingdom less irritated against him than another, having no detached province which he could engage in his defence by promises of pardon or of peculiar concessions, the trivial though neverfailing resources of government, he was compelled, with seven of his attendants, all that remained with him, to submit himself to the disposal of his subjects, -- and he signed at
Runnymede * the charter of the Forest, together with that famous charter, which, from its superior and extensive importance, is denominated Magna Charta.
By the former, the most tyrannical parts of the forest laws were abolished; and by the latter, the rigour of the feudal laws was greatly mitigated in favour of the lords. But this charter did not stop there; conditions were also stipulated in favour of the numerous body of the people who had concurred to obtain it, and who claimed, with sword in hand, a share in that security it was meant to establish. hence instituted by the Great Charter, that the same services which were remitted in favour of the barons should be in like manner remitted in favour of their vassals. This charter moreover established an equality of weights and measures throughout England; it exempted the merchants from arbitrary impost, and gave them liberty to enter and depart the kingdom at pleasure : it even extended to the lowest orders of the state, since it enacted, that the villain or bondman, should not be subject to the forfeiture of his implements of tillage,