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were also the natural result of the situation of those people. Whatever we may imagine concerning the usual truth and sincerity of men, who live in a rude and barbarous state, there is much more falsehood, and even perjury among them, than among civilized nations: virtue, which is nothing but a more enlarged and more cultivated reason, never flourishes to any degree, nor is founded on steady principles of honour, except where a good education becomes general; and where men are taught the pernicious consequences of vice, treachery, and immorality. Even superstition, though more prevalent among ignorant nations, is but a poor supply for the defects in knowledge and education: our European ancestors, who employed every moment the expedient of swearing on extraordinary crosses and reliques, were less honourable in all engagements than their posterity, who from experience have omitted those ineffectual securities. This general proneness to perjury was much increased by the usual want of discernment in judges, who could not discuss an intricate evidence, and were obliged to number, not weigh, the testimony of the witnesses. Hence the ridiculous practice of obliging men to bring compurgators, who, as they did not pretend to know any thing of the fact, expressed upon oath, that they believed the person spoke true; and these compurgators were in some cases multiplied to the number of three hundred". The practice also of single combat was employed by most nations on the continent as a remedy against false evidence; and though it was frequently dropped, from the opposition of the clergy, it was continually revived, from experience of the falsehood attending the testimony of witnesses. It became at last a species of jurisprudence: the cases were determined by law, in which the party might challenge his adversary, or
* Sometimes the laws fixed easy general rules for weighing the credibility of witnesses. A man whose life was estimated at a hundred and twenty shillings, counterbalanced six ceorles, each of whose lives was only valued at twenty shillings, and his oath was esteemed equivalent to that of all the six. See Wilkins, p. 72. y Præf. Nicol. ad Wilkins, p. 11. z LL. Burgund. cap. 45. LL. Lomb. lib. ii. tit. 55. cap. 34. à LL. Longob. lib. ii. tit. 55. cap. 23. apud Lindenbrog. p. 661.
the witnesses, or the judge himself": and though these customs were absurd, they were rather an improvement on the methods of trial which had formerly been practised among those barbarous nations, and which still prevailed among the Anglo-Saxons.
When any controversy about a fact became too intricate for those ignorant judges to unravel, they had recourse to what they called the judgment of God, that is, to fortune their methods of consulting this oracle were various. One of them was the decision by the cross: it was practised in this manner. When a person was accused of any crime, he first cleared himself by oath, and he was attended by eleven compurgators. He next took two pieces of wood, one of which was marked with the sign of the cross; and wrapping both up in wool, he placed them on the altar, or on some celebrated relique. After solemn prayers for the success of the experiment, a priest, or in his stead some unexperienced youth, took up one of the pieces of wood, and if he happened upon that which was marked with the figure of the cross, the person was pronounced innocent; if otherwise, guilty. This practice, as it arose from superstition, was abolished by it in France. The emperor, Lewis the debonnaire, prohibited that method of trial, not because it was uncertain, but lest that sacred figure, says he, of the cross should be prostituted in common disputes and controversies d
The ordeal was another established method of trial among the Anglo-Saxons. It was practised either by boiling water or redhot iron. The former was appropriated to the common people; the latter to the nobility. The water or iron was consecrated by many prayers, masses, fastings, and exorcisms; after which, the person accused either took up a stone sunk in the water to a certain depth, or carried the iron to a certain distance; and his hand being wrapped up, and the covering sealed
b See Desfontaines and Beaumanoir. c LL. Frison. tit. 14. apud Lindenbrog. p. 496. d Du Cange, in verbo Crux. eSpel. in verb. Ordealium. Parker, p. 155. Lindenbrog. p. 1299. f LL. Inæ, sect. 77.
for three days, if there appeared, on examining it, no marks of burning, he was pronounced innocent; if otherwise, guilty. The trial by cold water was different: the person was thrown into consecrated water; if he swam, he was guilty; if he sunk, innocent". It is difficult for us to conceive, how any innocent person could ever escape by the one trial, or any criminal be convicted by the other. But there was another usage admirably calculated for allowing every criminal to escape, who had confidence enough to try it. A consecrated cake, called a corsned, was produced; which if the person could swallow and digest, he was pronounced innocenti.
The feudal law, if it had place at all among the AngloSaxons, which is doubtful, was not certainly extended over all the landed property, and was not attended with those consequences of homage, reliefs, wardship, marriage, and other burthens, which were inseparable from it in the kingdoms of the continent. As the Saxons expelled, or almost entirely destroyed, the ancient Britons, they planted themselves in this island on the same footing with their ancestors in Germany, and found no occasion for the feudal institutions', which were calculated to maintain a kind of standing army, always in readiness to suppress any insurrection among the conquered people. The trouble and expense of defending the state in England lay equally upon all the land; and it was usual for every five hides to equip a man for the service. The trinoda necessitas,' as it was called, or the burthen of military expeditions, of repairing highways, and of building and supporting bridges, was inseparable from landed property, even though it belonged to the church or monasteries, unless exempted by a particular charter". The ceorles or husbandmen were provided with arms, and were ob
8 Sometimes the person accused walked barefoot over redhot iron.
Spel. in verbo Ordealium.
Spel. in verbo Corsned. Parker, p. 156. Text. Roffens. p. 33. k On the death of an alderman, a greater or lesser thane, there was a payment made to the king of his best arms; and this was called his heriot: but this was not of the nature of a relief. See Spel. of Tenures, p. 2. The value of this heriot was fixed by Canute's laws, sect. 69. 1 Bracton de Acqu. Rer. Domin. lib. ii. cap. 16. See more fully Spel. of Feus and Tenures, and Craigius de Jure Feud. lib. i. dieg. 7. Spel. Concil. vol. i. p. 256.
liged to take their turn in military duty". There were computed to be two hundred and forty-three thousand six hundred hides in England; consequently the ordinary military force of the kingdom consisted of forty-eight thousand seven hundred and twenty men; though, no doubt, on extraordinary occasions, a greater number might be assembled. The king and nobility had some military tenants, who were called sithcun-men".' And there were some lands annexed to the office of aldermen, and to other offices; but these probably were not of great extent, and were possessed only during pleasure, as in the commencement of the feudal law in other countries of Europe.
The revenue of the king seems to have consisted chiefly Public rein his demesnes, which were large; and in the tolls and venue. imposts which he probably levied at discretion on the boroughs and seaports that lay within his demesnes. He could not alienate any part of the crown lands, even to religious uses, without the consent of the states 9. Danegelt was a land-tax of a shilling a hide, imposed by the states', either for payment of the sums exacted by the Danes, or for putting the kingdom in a posture of defence against those invaders3.
The Saxon pound, as likewise that which was coined Value of for some centuries after the conquest, was near three money. times the weight of our present money: there were fortyeight shillings in the pound, and fivepence in a shillingt; consequently a Saxon shilling was near a fifth heavier than ours, and a Saxon penny near three times as heavy". As to the value of money in those times, compared to commodities, there are some, though not very certain, means of computation. A sheep, by the laws of Athelstan, was estimated at a shilling; that is, fifteen pence of our money. The fleece was two fifths of the value of the whole sheep*; much above its present estimation; and the reason probably was, that the Saxons, like the an
n Inæ, sect. 51.
r Chron. Sax. p. 128. $ LL.
• Spel. of Feus and Tenures, p. 17.
t LL. Elf. sect. 40.
cients, were little acquainted with any clothing but what was made of wool. Silk and cotton were quite unknown: linen was not much used. An ox was computed at six times the value of a sheep; a cow at four". If we suppose that the cattle in that age, from the defects in husbandry, were not so large as they are at present in England, we may compute that money was then near ten times of greater value. A horse was valued at about thirty-six shillings of our money, or thirty Saxon shillings2; a mare a third less. A man at three pounds. The board-wages of a child the first year was eight shillings, together with a cow's pasture in summer, and an ox's in winter. William of Malmsbury mentions it as a remarkably high price that William Rufus gave fifteen marks for a horse, or about thirty pounds of our present moneyc. Between the years 900 and 1000, Ednoth bought a hide of land for about one hundred and eighteen shillings of present money. This was little more than a shilling an acre, which indeed appears to have been the usual price, as we may learn from other accounts. A palfrey was sold for twelve shillings about the year 966. The value of an ox in king Ethelred's time was between seven and eight shillings; a cow about six shillings. Gervas of Tilbury says, that in Henry the first's time, bread which would suffice a hundred men for a day was rated at three shillings, or a shilling of that age; for it is thought that soon after the conquest a pound sterling was divided into twenty shillings: a sheep was rated at a shilling, and so of other things in proportion. In Athelstan's time a ram was valued at a shilling, or fourpence Saxon". The tenants of Shireburn were obliged, at their choice, to pay either sixpence or four hens. About 1232, the abbot of St. Alban's, going on a journey, hired seven handsome stout horses; and agreed, if any of them died on the road, to pay the owner thirty shillings a piece of our present money. It is to be re
Wilkins, p. 66.
sect, 38. Eliens.
z Ibid. 126.
b LL. Inæ,
* Hist. b Ibid.