SECTION II: HISTORY (cont.)
Part 18: Anglo-Saxon Period: Heptarchy and Christianization (600-800).
The time of heathen conquest thus ends with the first years of the seventh century. The introduction of Christianity among the English was so great a change, it gave so different a character to all the events that followed, that this would seem to be the most fitting point in our story to stop and attempt a picture of the general state of things in Teutonic Britain during the first century and a half after Teutonic conquest began. The introduction of a new religion did not stop warfare, whether between Englishman and Briton or between Englishman and Englishman. It did not stop aggressive conquest at the cost of either kinsmen or strangers. But it so far humanized its new converts that warfare ceased to be exterminating. Conquest now meant political subjugation and, for a while, social degradation. It no longer meant the more frightful alternatives of death, flight, or personal slavery. The lands won by the English up to this date must be looked on as having become purely Teutonic. The Britons were swept away as nearly as a people can be swept away. The lands conquered after this time must be looked on as lands in which the dominant Teuton has largely assimilated his Celtic subjects. The process has gone on from that day to this, and it goes on still. Kent, the south-eastern peninsula, has been purely English for fourteen hundred years. Cornwall, the south-western peninsula, has become fully English, even in speech, only within the memory of a generation which has hardly passed away. Thus, in the hundred and fifty-eight years which passed between the landing of Hengest and the victory of Aethelfrith, a large part of Britain and received another language, another religion, another system of law. Old things had passed away; all things had become new. In the whole eastern part of the island, from the Forth to the English Channel, and through a great, though still somewhat undefined, central region, reaching at two points to the western seas, the Roman and the Briton had gone, and the Teuton had taken their place. The three Low-Dutch tribes brought with them their form of the common Teutonic language. Into that language a few Roman and a few British words crept from the beginning. British slaves, British women, brought in a few humble words of domestic life. A few of the great works of Roman civilization, such as the conquerors had never sees in their own land, struck them with awe and wonder. For these they had no names in their own tongue; they therefore kept their Latin names in the English tongue. The words street, port, chester, thus came into our language. Many of the great natural objects, most of the rivers, a few of the hills, kept their earlier names; so did a few great cities. With these few exceptions, the vocabulary of the tongue which our fathers brought with them remained untouched. It was enriched by a few new words to express new ideas, and that was all. Nothing happened till far later times to make any change in its character, its grammatical construction, its general stock of words. We brought with us our language, and with our language we brought with us the earliest monuments of its literature. We brought with us our English Iliad in the primaeval Song of Beowulf; we brought with us our Homeric catalogue in the Song of the Traveller. Whether they were written or unwritten, whether they lived only in the memory or were graven with the primaeval runes, those songs were the work of Englishmen in the days before a rood of British soil had become England. Nor need we doubt that the deeds of Hengest and Cerdic had already been graven on the primaeval beech,1 while yet Englishmen knew no speech but English, and worshipped no god but woden and his fellows. Before the Roman made his second appearance in this island, the national literature of Englishmen, the local literature of England, had begun.
We thus brought with us into Britain that form of the common Aryan speech which had grown up among the tribes of northern Germany. Wherever, during the first hundred and fifty years of the English settlement, the English arms reached, there the tongue of Rome and the tongue of Britain passed away. Their place was taken by the speech which, with the changes that fourteen hundred years have wrought in it, still abides the speech of England. It has changed, as all other languages have changed. It has, like all other languages, so changed that its older forms cannot now be understood without special study; but it has never lost its unbroken personal being. The English tongue has never been displaced by any other tongue, as the tongue of the Briton was displaced by the tongue of the English. It has lived on, spoken in different local forms in different parts of the land, changing from age to age, losing old inflexions, taking in new words; but it has changed simply as the nation itself has changed, without ceasing to be one and the same English nation; it has changed, as each man in the nation himself changes in his passage from childhood to old age, without ceasing to be the same personal being in old age, which he was in childhood. And, with our form of the common Aryan language, we brought with us our form of another common Aryan possession, which still abides, also unchanged in its personal identity, never displaced to make way for any other system, but which has gone through even and more constant changes than our spoken language. We brought with us our own political and social system; that is, the form which the political and social system common to the whole Aryan family had taken among the tribes of northern Germany. A germ of political and social life was brought into Britain in the keels of Hengest, which, changing from generation to generation but never itself exchanged for any other system, borrowing from foreign sources but assimilating what it borrowed with its own essence, changing its outward shape but abiding untouched in its true substance, has lived and grown through fourteen hundred years into the law, the constitution, the social being, of England.
The earliest law of custom of England was the law or custom of the old homes of the English settlers, with such modifications as the settlement in a land beyond the sea could not fail to bring with it. These modifications, as a moments thought will show, must have been considerable. A conquest by land need not involve any sudden change; it does not necessarily place the conqueror in any wholly new set of circumstances. It may well be a mere territorial advance, a mere addition of field, in which the last won territory does not call for any different treatment from the other territory immediately behind it. But a conquest by sea implies a breach of continuity; the old land is necessarily forsaken, and a fresh start has to be made in a new one. The political society of the old home may be reproduced in the new; but it is reproduced rather than continued, and it can hardly be reproduced without some measure of change. And a settlement made bit by bit, each step being won by hard fighting, such as was the English settlement in Britain, will be affected by all such influences as are likely to be strengthened by constant fighting for the possession of a new country. And in such a case, when the nation is an army in active, when the chiefs of the nation are the leaders of that army, the influences which are most likely to be strengthened are those which tend in the direction of national unity. Or, what is almost the same thing, they are the influences which tend to strengthen the authority of the chiefs by whom the national unity is represented.
The political and social state of the Low-Dutch tribes at the time of their settlement in Britain was still essentially the primitive Teutonic democracy, the state of things described by Tacitus, and which still exists, modified of course in the lapse of ages, but untouched by any violent change, in some of the smaller and more primitive cantons of Switzerland. The family is at the root of everything. The hide of land, the portion supposed to be enough for the maintenance of a single family, is the lowest territorial unit. The enlarged family, in Greek and Latin phrase the gens, tracing by natural descent or by artificial adoption to a common forefather, real or imaginary, divine or human, is the lowest political unit. As in ancient Greece and Italy, it constantly bears the name of such supposed forefather. The Aescingas, the Scyldingas, a crowd of other such names, marked in Teutonic, just as in Greek, by the patronymic ending, are sometimes recorded in history or legend, some times simply left to be inferred from the local nomenclature of England and other Teutonic lands. The territory, originally the common territory, of such an enlarged or mark or township. The cultivated land of each gens was fenced in by a boundary line untilled land, forming the mark in the strictest sense. The township then and its inhabitants formed the lowest political unit, an unit having its own assembly and its own political organization. Such a political unit still forms the gemeinde, the commune, of other lands. This unit has been exposed in England to influences which have altered its character more thoroughly than it has been altered anywhere else. An ecclesiastical influence has changed the original mark into the half civil, half ecclesiastical parish. An influence of another kind changed the primitive community, holding its common land by its own right, into a body of tenants holding their land of a lord. The township which had passed through such a change became a manor.
It must always be remembered that, in the primitive polity, each larger group is formed by bringing together several of the smaller. Several gentes brought together formed in the Roman system the curia, answering to the Attic ____ and the Spartan _____. The Teutonic counterpart of this group is the hundred. The name must in its beginning have meant a real hundred of some kind; but such names soon lose their proper force, and are used in a purely conventional sense. The hundreds of England are familiar as geographical divisions; but their traditional organization, administrative, judicial, and military, is fast passing out of memory. When the English first landed in Britain, and for ages after, that organization was fresh and vigorous. But it is quite possible that, even before the voyage of Hengest, the mere name of hundred had become purely conventional, and had ceased to imply an actual hundred of any kind.
As a group of gentes formed a curia, so a group of curiae form a tribe. In the Teutonic nomenclature, the territory of the tribe is the gá, gau, peod, or scir, in modern English shire, the pagus or scira of Latin writers. Gá or gau, a name familiar in Germany, but whose existence can only just be proved in England, is doubtless the elder name. Shire, from shear, does not mean a group of lesser units, but in strictness a division, something shorn off from a greater whole. Both names are historically true, of the existing shires of England some are really primitive gás, settlement of tribes, while others are in strictness shires, artificial divisions formed at a later time in imitation of the primitive gá. The West-Saxon shires are primitive gás, and two at least, those of the Sumorsaetas and the Dorsaetas, still keep the ancient tribal names. But the old tribal divisions of Mercia were wiped out in the Danish conquest of the ninth century. In the process of English re-conquest the land was mapped out afresh into shires, strictly so called, shires grouped conveniently round a central town, and bearing the name of that town instead of the name of the ancient tribe. The shire, it is needless to say, is still a living thing throughout England, and from England it has spread itself, commonly under the French name county, through all lands ruled, settled, or influenced by England.
The gá was the lowest group which could exist as a really distinct political power. The mark and the hundred, like the gens and the curia, do not, at least in the finished system, whether Teutonic or Greek and Italian, aspire to the character of an independent state. The gá, like the tribe, might do so. The gá might be wholly independent; it might be dependent on some stronger neighbour; it might be incorporated into a kingdom, and sink into one of its separate organization, its assembly with judicial, administrative, and legislative power, its chief bearing the title of ealdorman or Alderman in peace, of heretoga, Herzogthe GREEK of the Athenian tribein time of war. The alderman stood, like the territory of which he was the chief, in various relations. He might be in independent or a vassal prince, he might, by the incorporation of his gá with a kingdom, have sunk into a mere magistrate, appointed by the king and assembly of the whole kingdom. But the organization of the gá or shire remained in either case. So the Ramnes and Titienses were independent tribes, occupying their several hills. They joined together, to become the tribes whose union formed the earliest Rome.
A system of gás or shire is thus the oldest fully developed form of the Teutonic polity. The process of grouping independent gás into a yet greater division was gradual, and went on much faster in some parts than others. The union of gás formed a rice or kingdom; the chief of the group thus formed was a cyning or king. What, it may be asked, was the difference between king and ealdorman? The question is a hard one; but one point of difference seems plain. The ealdorman was a ruler in peace and a captain in war. The king was more. Among the English at least, the kingly houses all claimed descent from the blood of the gods. Every king was a son of Woden. A vague religious reverence thus gathered round the king, in which the ealdorman had no share. He was also the head of the highest political aggregate which the ideas of those days had reached. He was as his name implies, the head of the kin, the nation. The rule of the ealdorman was tribal, and merely earthly; the rule of the king was national, and in some sort divine.
Kingship then, the leadership of a nation, was, in the ideas of those days, and office and not a property. As an office, it demanded qualifications. It demanded in truth the highest qualifications needed in one who was to be the leader of his people in peace and in war. Such an office could not be trusted to the chances of any law of strict hereditary descent. Or rather, the notion of any law of strict hereditary descent was a thing which had not yet presented itself to mens minds. Kingship then was elective; the leader of the people became such only by the choice of the people; but the right of choice was not wholly unlimited; the king, so custom and tradition taught, must come of the stock of Woden. But within that stock one member of it was as sacred, as kingly, as another. The son a deceased king would doubtless be his most obvious successor, if there was nothing especially to suggest another choice; but he no further claim beyond any other man of his house. Traditional rule dictated that the choice should be made from the royal; reason dictated that it should fall on the worthiest of the royal house. The union of these two feelings led to that mixture of election and hereditary succession which we find among the ancient English, as among most other nations at the same stage. The king is chosen; but he is chosen, under all ordinary circumstances, from the one kingly line. He is not chosen as the heir or the representative or the next of kin of the former king. He is chosen as that one pf the kingly house whom the people think fit to choose. He is chosen from the houses; therefore kindred in the female line goes for nothing. The son of a kings daughter does not belong to the kingly houses; he is therefore not eligible for the kingly office. But the most distant kinsman in the male line is as much one of the kingly stock as the king himself, and the choice of the nation may fall upon him. There is no point in our early constitution which is more important to insist on than this. Nothing has led to more and greater misconceptions than carrying back the legal theories of later days into earlier times, than fancying that every prince was an usurper whose succession to the crown did not take place according to rules which he and those who chose him had never heard of, and would not have understood.
The institution of kingship came in gradually among the Teutonic nations, and its growth was much slower in some parts than in others. In the time of Tacitus, kingship was clearly far from universal. By the time of the Wandering of the nations, and its growth was much slower in some parts than on others. In the time of Tacitus, kingship was clearly far from universal. By the time of the wandering of the Nations, when scattered tribes begun to gather together in greater masses, it was clearly the rule. Among the Saxons its growth was specially slow. Among the Old-Saxons who stayed behind in Germany it never came in at all. So both the Saxon and the Jutish leaders came to Britain, notas kings, but as ealdorman or Heretogan. They were of the stock of Woden, and were therefore qualified for kingship; but they did not take the kingly title till they had a firm settlement in the country. The institution of kingship seems to have grown up in different ways in different parts of England. From all that we can see of the Anglian kingdoms, they were formed by the union of several states into one greater kingdom. In such a case the ealdorman or kings of the incorporated states might go on under the superiority of the common king; but the king sank into the under-king, kingly in descent, kingly in office among his own people, but owing the external authority of the common king. In Wesses the course of things was otherwise. There too we find several kings at once; but all are, not only of the stock of Woden, but of the house of Cerdic. There was moreover always one head king over the whole West-Saxon nation. Something of the same kind seems to have been the rule in Kent. We see, though dimly, signs of a separate, and doubtless subordinate, kingdom of the West-Kentishmen.
Among the English conquerors of Britain we see from the beginning the same elements of political life which we see among the other Teutonic nations, and which were doubtless parts of the original Aryan inheritance. The inhabitants of the land fall into two great classes, the free and the unfree, classes each of which is again capable of subdivision. Every freeman is a citizen and a soldier; he is, or may be a landowner; he has his place in the army, his voice in the assembly. But all freeman are not equal in rank and honour. There is a broad distinction, a distinction so old that its beginning cannot be traced, between the man who is simply free and the man who is not only free but noble. The distinction is expressed in different teutonic dialects by the rhyming names eorl and ceorl, jarl and karl, in modern English form, earl and churl. These two last words have in modern use changed their meaning. In their oldest sense they answer to the modern phrase gentle and simple. It is impossible to say in the privileges of the eorl consisted, nor is there anything to show that they were oppressive. But the distinction was broadly drawn, and the birth of the eorl clearly entitled him to special respect and honour, if to nothing more. And such special respect and honour would, in the common course of things, give the eorlas a preference for all offices and distinctions, whether honorary or substantial, which either king or people had to bestow. The unfree class again were clearly not on a level in all times and places. The actual slave, the thrall, the peow, is found everywhere. The class is formed and recruited in two ways. The captive taken in war accepts slavery as a lighter doom than death; the freeman who is guilty of certain crimes is degraded to the state of slavery by sentence of law. In either case the servile of the parent is inherited by his children, and the slave class goes on increasing. The existence of other classes between the absolute slave, the mere chattel of his master, and the full freeman, with his place in the army and his voice in the assembly, is possible and frequent, but not universal. It was a natural position either for the enfranchised slave, for the foreign settler, or for the conquered enemy who was admitted to more favourable terms than usual. Out of such cases there might easily arise a class, personally free, but not possessed of the full political rights of freedom. There might indeed be many stages imperfect freedom or mitigated bondage between the personal slave and the free churl. To some of these intermediate ranks the slave might arise or the freeman might sink. But such a class, through often found, is not a necessary element in Teutonic society. But the eorl, the churl, and the thrall, are found everywhere. They are taken for granted; and legend represented the three classes as called being by separate acts of the creative power of the gods. All these, as essential elements of Teutonic society, are found among our forefathers from the beginning.
But in all Teutonic societies another principle was at work, which began very early to change the nature of primitive Teutonic society. That society was a community, a community which, like all other communities, admitted distinctions of rank, wealth, and office, but where each man, earl or churl, held his place strictly as a member of the community, bound by its laws, and owing to it his duties in was and in peace. The Teutonic community differs from the Greek or Italian city in so far as it is not fenced in with walls, but has its inhabited places spread over the whole of its territory. But its leading political conception is essentially the same. The king or ealdorman is clothed with the authority of a leader. The earls have their privileges, in whether those privileges may consist. In the assembly the king and the earls may consult and propose, while the simple freeman merely say yes or nay. But each discharges his duty in his higher or lower place strictly as a member of the community. His duty, his allegiance, is due to the whole society, not to any particular member of it. This primitive system was from a very early time broken in upon by the practice of personal commendation to the lord. Such commendation was in its beginning strictly military. In the primitive community the army is simply the nation under arms. Each man discharges his duties in war, like his duties in peace, in obedience to the law of the society of which he is part. But at a very early timefor the picture stands out distinctly in Tacitussuccessful and popular leaders began to gather round them a band of special followers, devoted by a personal tie to themselves. Where the chief led they followed. The tie was mutual. For the chief to forsake his followers, for the followers to forsake their chief, was alike shameful. A personal tie thus arose between man and man, alongside of the political tie which bound each member of the community to the community itself. The king ealdorman, or other chief, became something more than the magistrate and captain of the community. He became the personal lord of some particular men along its members. They became his men, bound to do him personal service. He became their hlaford,lord,in the primitive meaning of the word, loaf-giver,who was to reward the service which they rendered to him. The new principle spread and gradually made its way into every relation of Teutonic society. The personal following of the king, his _____ as or compassions, his pegnas or servants, grew into a nobility of office. Thus arose the nobility of thegns, which gradually supplanted the older nobility of birth, the nobility of the earls. The growth of the royal power, and the growth of the importance of the thegnhood, naturally went hand in hand. A power like that of kingship, when once established, is sure to grow. It is specially sure to grow in a period of conquest. The king and his personal followers are likely to be foremost in warfare ; and each increase of territory increase the power and dignity of the king, and therewith raises the condition of his followers. We see the institution of the thegnhood in full force at an early stage of the Teutonic settlement in Britain. We may feel sure that thee Teutonic settlement in Britain greatly served to strengthen it. And we cannot doubt that the change from the nobility of office to the nobility of birth greatly affected the position of the churl or simple freeman. By breaking down a barrier which was purely a barrier of birth, it made it easier for individual churls to rise to a higher rank. But by gradually confining office and power and influence to the kings personal following, it tended to degrade the position of the churls as a class.
This relation of man to his lord might be on any scale. It might be contracted between men of any rank, between a weaker and a more powerful king, between a poorer and a richer churl, or between men of any of the intermediate ranks. In its higher degrees the relation was political; in its lower degrees it was purely social. It spread alike upwards and downwards, till it became the rule and not the exception. It came to be looked on as the business of every man to seek a lord, and at last the lordless man had legal disadvantages. Still the relation between a man and his lord, was in itself a relation purely personal, and had nothing to do with the holding of land. But the two things might easily be brought into connexion with one another. And as the practiced of commendation grew, analogues changes gradually affected the tenure of land. In both cases the personal relation grew the expense of the public relation. The community lost, and the individual gained.
The land of a Teutonic community is primarily the property of the community itself. It is folkland ager publicus, the land of the people. But here, as everywhere else, private property in land gradually arose; that is, the community granted out parts of the common possession to its individual members. The pictures of Caesar and Tacitus show that, in the time between them, the institution of private property in land had already made some advances. When it has once begun, it is sure to advance. It would specially advance with every conquest ; each man would claim to have his personal share of the soil which he had helped to win. Thus, alongside of the folkland, the land of the community, grew up the private estate, the eªel, odal, or allod, This is land which is a mans very own, the gift of the community, held according to the laws of the community. It is not the gift of this or that man owing any service to this or that man. As the kings power grew, as he came to be looked on more and more as the representative of the community, the land of the community came step by step to be looked on as his land. In the six hundred years between the English conquest of Britain and the Norman conquest of England, the folkland, the ager publicus, passed into terra regis, the land of the king. As the community could at all times grant away its own land, the doctrine gradually grew that the king, the head of the community, could grant it away also. In the first stage he granted it only with assent of the community ; in a later stage he came to dispense with that assent. Land thus booked, granted by a written document, to whomever the king would, but of course mainly to his personal followers, became bookland. The lord was the giver of bread the his man, and the land of the community was the noblest form of bread that he could give him. And, as things went on, he might sometimes grant him more than the land itself. The primitive community, great or small, from the township to the nation, had the rights of a community ; it had judicial and administrative powers. From those powers it might be deemed a privilege for the royal grantee to be exempted. He might be clothed with exceptional judicial powers within his own lands ; the next stage would be for those powers to spread themselves over the lands of his neigbours. The privileged landowners within a community might grow to be the lord of the community. The township might grow the lordship ; its free assembly might grow into the court of the lord ; the land itself, so much of it as escaped the lords clutches, might be declared to be held under the lord. In the fictions of lawyers of the things are commonly turned about the exception is declared to be the rule and the rule to be the exception. If the community contrives to save any fragments of its ancient rights from the grasp of the lord, those fragments are at last judicially declared to be held only by the lords grant. If no grant can be found in real history, legal ingenuity will be ready to assume one.
All land was by immemorial custom burthened with three duties. To the repair of bridges and the repair of fortresses all land was bound to contribute. And the duty of every member of the community to serve in arms when called on for the defence of the community was so far a charge upon the land that a certain amount of land had to supply a certain number of men. But his is not military service in the later sense ; the land is not held of a lord by a military tenure ; the personal duty of serving in the fyrd, the militia of the community, is not a duty paid by the man to his lord, but by the member of the community to the community itself, The primitive militia of the community and the personal following of the lords form two distinct elements, which often appear as distinct in the records of early warfare. The strickly military tenure, the holding of land from a lord on condition of doing him military service, does not concern us as yet.
The English settlers in Britain thus brought with them all the elements of Teutonic society as they stood in their day. The distinction of earl, churl, and theow went on in Teotonic Britain as they had gone on in Germany from time immemorial. Marks, hundreds, gás, arose on the conquered soil of Britain, as they had already arisen on the ancestral soil of Germany. But the circumstances of the conquest could not fail to hasten the process by which the smaller communities were gradually gathered into the larger. That the gentes settled by marks is plain from nomenclature and much as in Greece than the same Doric tribes helped over and over again to found distinct Doric settlements, so settlements of the gens formed in distant parts of England bore the same name. The gens of the Wellingas, for instance, appears at Wellington in Somerset, at Wellington in Shrophire, and at Wellingborough in Northamptonshire. But the mark never could have had the same importance in England which it had in Germany. Such a settlement could never maintain itself alone in a country which was being conquered bit by bit. Every settlement must from the beginning have relied on the help of its neighbours, alike for further conquests and for the defence of what it had already won. Everything must have tended to closer union among the communities which grouped to form the hundred, the gá, and the kingdom. The gá must, from the first, have been the lowest group capable of real separate being. And in Wessex at least, each gá, as it was formed, was placed under the rule of an under-king of the royal house. In central England the gás, each doubtness under its separate king or ealdorman, often remained really distinct, till they were swallowed up by the growing power of Mercia.
All these groups, greater and smaller, mark or township, hundred, gá or shire, and kingdom, kept the constitution of the primitive community, modified by such changes as change of circumstances could not fail to bring with them. So far as we can get any glimpses of any of them, we see in all alike the same elements. There is in all the presiding chief, the leading men proposing and debating, the whole body of freemen saying yea or nay to their proposals. The chief change was one of the highest practical moment, but which was not the result of any sudden revolution, or even of any enacted law. Democracy may change into oligarchy by the mere working of the laws of time and space. The simple freeman may have the same right to appear in the assembly of the kingdom which he has to appear in the assembly of his own township. But he is far from being so likely to be found there. Mere distance settles the question. Only the more wealthy and the more zealous will go long journeys to take a part in public affairs. Thus the assembly, popular and unlimited in its theoretical constitution, silently narrows till it becomes an assembly of the chief men, with such only of the common freemen as live near the place of assembly or are drawn to it in greater numbers than usual on some occasion of special excitement. The assembly of the kingdom, the Witenagemót or Meeting of the Wise, gradually took his character. There was no need to shut the mass of the people out ; they shut themselves out. In the Scírgemót, the assembly of the shire, we see the working of the same law. Attendance has to be enforced by law ; at least a minimum number for each district is fixed. This practically comes to confining the assembly to those who are specially summoned ; for a special summons to certain members is always found to lead in the end to the exclusion of those who are not summoned. In this way, without any formal change, by the mere working of natural causes, the popular character of the primitive assemblies died out. It died out of course more thoroughly in the higher assemblies than in the lower. The great assembly of the kingdom, in theory the gathering of all the freemen of the kingdom, shrack up into an assembly of the kings thegns, subject to the appearance of more numerous bodies of men on specially stirring occasions, and to the presence of the citizens of the town where the assembly was held, when it was held in a town. This will always happen whenever the assembly of a large country is primary and not representative. The more purely democratic its constitution, the more sure is it to shrink up into oligarchy. But it is well to remember that, as long as our national assemblies kept an y traces of their primitive shape, those great meeting which chose and deposed kings which made and repealed laws, which made war and peace, were, in theory at least, meetings not of this or that class, but of the nation.
In the last paragraph we have been carried on somewhat beyond the date which we had reach in our narrative, somewhat beyond the period of heathen England. In so doing we have incidentally made mention of towns. The origin of the English towns certainly comes within the period with which we are immediately dealing. Than that origin no part of our subject is more obscure. But one negative point we may assert with full confidence ; there is no trace of any possession, of any law or custom or office, which the cities and boroughs of England have inherited from the older municipalities of Rome. Whatever likeness may be seen between the two is due, beyond all doubt, not to direct derivation, but to the eternal law according to which like causes produce like results. In the primitive Teutonic system, in the system reaching from the mark up to the kingdom, there was no place for walled towns. The early Teuton looked on the walled town as a prison. When in after times strictly English towns arose, their position was wholly different from that of the Roman towns. The Roman town was the centre and mistress of everything within its own range. The city was a commonwealth ; the surrounding country was little more tan a subject district. Without a city there could, in Greek and Roman ideas, be no organized political or social life. In the Teutonic system, on the other hand, towns were wholly unknown, and they have never in any Teutonic country come to fill the place which they have always filled in southern Europe. The difference between English social life and that of the southern part of European continent, the shrinking of the English upper classes from town life in any shape but that of the capital of the kingdom, dates from the very beginning of our history. In southern Europe the city is an essential of life ; in England it is a kind of accident. When English towns did arise, they were simply districts where houses stood thicker together than elsewhere. The town was a mark, a hundred, perhaps a shire, in which more men lived within a smaller space than they lived in other marks, hundreds, or shires. But the question here arises, When did they English conquerors of Britain begin to occupy walled towns at all? It is certain that in many cases the Roman town was simply forsaken by its English conquerors. At Pevensey and Silchester the inhabitants were slaughtered, and the walls left standing empty for ever. It is equally certain that in other cases, as at Bath and Chester, the Roman walls, after standing empty for a while,in the case of Chester for the ascertained period of three hundred years,were again inhabited by settlements of Englishmen. The question is whether this last was the case with all the Roman sites which were won during the time of heathen conquest and which became English towns in later times, or whether any of them were continuously inhabite, and simply passed from British to English occupiers. It is quite certain that in some cases the period of desolation, if there was any, must have been short. If London, Canterbury, York, Lincoln, Colchester, ever stood void and forsaken, they must have been settled very soon. Some at least of them were again inhabited cities at the end of the sixth century. London and York, above all, would doubtless hold out long after all the surrounding country had been subdued. They may have held out till the conquerors had laid aside somewhat of their first rudeness, and had learned to see that a city and its walls were a valuable possession. In some then of the greatest cities we may believe that their conquest was comparatively late, and that, when they were conquered, they immediately became dwelling-place of the conquerors. It may the well be that there never was a moment when the walls of Eboracum, the walls of Augustathe old city once called London and afterwards to be called London againceased to gird in the dwelling-places of man. The point is that the connexion between Eboracum and Eoforwic, between Augusta and Lundenbyrig, is a connexion purely geographical. The Briton went out, and the Englishman came in .The rulers and the people of the Teutonic commonwealth had no political succession from the rulers and people of the Roman commonwealth which had once occupied the same soil.
Of English law during this time we have no contemporary monuments. But law in its first form is the same as custom ; the earliest written codes are simply the customs of the time set down in writing. We have no written English laws till after the introduction of Christianity ; the oldest written code bears the name of the first Christian king. But the dooms of Aethelberht, and the dooms of much later kings, are, in all those points which are not clearly modified by Christianity, good evidence for the laws or customs of heathen times. Our oldest laws set before us a society in which the position of the king is well marked, and where he summons his people to him, doubtless to the general assembly of his realm. The classes of eorl, ceorl, and peow are plainly marked. Of the thegn, in the earliest code of all, there is no mention. We have mention also of the classes intermediate between the freeman and the slave, the lat namely and the esne. But we see no signs of a society containing men of distinct nationalities ; there is nothing answering to the mention of the Romans in the codes of the continental Teutons, or to the mention of the Welsh in other English codes which were drawn up at a later time and under other circumstances. The first English laws are drawn up for a purely Teutonic people, keeping their old Teutonic customs. Two of the most characteristic features of ancient English law are there in their fulness. Every man has his value ; but his value differs according to his rank. Every freemens oath is worth something ; but the oath of the earl is worth more than the oath of the churl. Death or injury done to any man has its penalty ; but the penalty is higher or lower according to the rank of the person injured. In short, in all the early codes, in England and elsewhere, the state has already stepped in to regulate and modify the natural desire for vengeance on the part of the injured person or his kinsfolk. The natural avenger of the slain man seeks for the blood of the slayer ; the state steps in and persuades him, in Teutonic England no less than in Homeric Greece, to accept of a money payment instead of the gratification of his vengeance. The right of a man in a state of nature to do himself justice with the strong arm, the foehde or feudthe source of the private war and the duel of later timesis modified, and confined to certain extreme cases. the state in all such cases steps in as a mediator between the wrong-doer and the man who seeks to avenge himself upon the wrong-doer. It takes the right of punishment out of his hands into its own. The later legel doctrine that a wrong done to any member of the community is a wrong done to the community itself, and to the king as its head, has not yet been reached. A crime done against the king is more heavily punished than a crime done against another man ; but that is simply because the king fills the highest place in the long gradation of ranks. The first notion of a crime against the state as such seems to come out in that venerable enactment which looks like the origin of one branch of our modern privilege of parliament"If the king his people to him call, and to them then man evil do, twofold bot and to the king fifty shillings."
The languages, the laws and the constitution which the English settlers in Britain brought with them from their older homes were in the course of ages to undergo many changes ; the newer forms were to part away widely from the older; but all was to be gradual growth, gradual change ; there was to be no sudden revolution, no supplanting of one tongue by another tongue, of one law by another law. But the English had brought with them from their older homes another possession which was to pass utterly away, a system which was to be thoroughly supplanted by a rival system of foreign birth. With their language and their laws they had brought with them their religion ; and while their language and their laws were to abide, their religion was to pass away. The old religion of the English was, like their language and their laws that form of the common Aryan heritage which had grown up among the people of northern Germany. The old Teutonic faith is best known to us in the poetry and legends of that branch of the race which clave to it longer than the rest, in the Eddas and Sagas of the Northmen of Scandinavia. Our system was doubtless essentially the same as theirs, though, as it was laid aside by both High and Low Germans earlier than it was in Scandinavia, it may never have reached among them the same full poetic development which it reached in more northern lands. The names of the chief gods. Woden, Thunder,1 Frigga, and the rest, are the same with only dialect differences. The name of one of our old gods is of special interest ; the great Aryan power of the sky, Zeus himself, appears among us, though with lessened honours, under the English from of Tiw. He, his fellows gives his name to a day of the week ; and his name, like that of his fellows, may be traced in the local nomenclature of our land. Of that land the Teutonic gods took full possession along with their worshipped. The creed of the Roman and the Briton passed away with those who professed it. The still unconquered Welsh never thought of undertaking the work of missionaries among the conquerors and destroyers of their brethren. And they would have had small chance of being hearkened to by those conquerors and destroyers, if they had undertaken such a task. It was otherwise when a new light came from lands beyond the sea, between whose people and ours there reigned no such mutual scorn and hatred. And above all things, it was otherwise when the call to a new faith came directly from the capital of the western world. The English folk were first called on to cast aside the faith of Woden and to embrace the faith of Christ by men who came on that errand from Rome herself, at the bidding of the acknowledged father of Western Christendom.
The conversion of the English Christianity was not only one of the great turning-points in the history of England ; it was one of the great turning-points in the history of Christianity itself. It was, as far at least as the West is concerned, a conversion of a kind that was altogether new. Christianity is historically the religion of the Roman empire ; wherever the influence of Rome, East or West, has spread, there Christianity has been dominant; beyond that range it has taken little root. The Teutonic conquerors of the continental provinces accepted the religion of the empire as they accepted its laws and language. At the end of the sixth century, all the subjects, all the western conquerors of Rome, were Christian. Heathendom took in only the lands, like Scandinavia and Germany beyond the Rhine, which had never formed part of the empire, together with the one Western land which had whooly fallen away from the empire. The conversion of England was the first strictly foreign mission of the Western Church. It was the first spiritual conquest of a people wholly strange, a people who stood in no kind of relation to Rome and her civilization. It was the first act of a long series of spiritual conquests which gradually brought all Europe within the pale of the Church. And it was more than the first act of the series ;it enlisted in the missionary work the people who were to send forth the most successful apostles to other lands. The conversion of England directly led to the conversation of heathen Germany and Scandinavia. Gregory, who was so anxious for the sould of Trajan, was himself a spiritual Trajan, enlarging his spiritual empire by conquests more lasting than the earthly conquests of Trajan himself. The conversion of the English to Christianity carried with it the readmission of Britain into the general world of Europe. Throughout the fifth and sixth centuries the notices of the affairs of Britain in continental writers are rare and meagre beyond expression. They show that Britain had fallen back into the isolation of the days before Ceasar ; it had again an unknown world, a world about which any kind of fable might be safely uttered. Such rare intercourse as that world had with the Roman world was through the Teutonic masters of Gaul, the Franks. And it may be taken as a sign that, in the latter years of the sixth century. Kent at least must have been striving to bring itself within the European circle, when we find its king Aethelberht married to a Christian wife the daughter of a Frankish king. It is to be noticed how ever that neither the queen herself nor the Frankish bishop whom she brought with her seem to have directly done anything for the conversion of the king or his people. That work could be done by nothing short of the majesty of Rome.
One point which cannot be too strongly insisted on at this stage is that the Church of England which was founded by Augustine has nothing whatever to do with the early British Church. In after times certain British dioceses submitted to English ecclesiastical rule, and that is all. The Christianity of England did not come wholly from any single source ; and one of the sources from which it came was found within the British islands. But the source was not a British source. The Roman planted ; the Scot watered ; but the Briton did nothing. He not only did nothing ; he refused to do anything ; he would have nothing to say to Augustines invitation to join in preaching the gospel to the heathen English. Theologians may dispute over the inferences which may be drawn from the fact ; but the historical fact cannot be altered to please any man. The Church of England is the daughter of the Church of Rome. She is so perhaps more directly than any other Church in Europe. England was the special conquest of the Roman Church, the first land which looked up with reverence to the Roma pontiff, while it owed not even a nominal allegiance to the Roman Caesar.
The conversion of the English was gradual, and, on the whole, peaceful. Christianity was nowhere forced on an unwilling people by fire and sword, as was done in some later conversion. We find wards between Christian and heathen kingdoms in which religion is clearly one great animating cause on both sides ; but we do not hear of persecutions of wars of religion within the bosom of any kingdom. As a rule, the king is converted first. The great men follow, perhaps in duty bound as his thegns. The mass of the people follow their leaders. But all is done without compulsion; if conversion was not always the result of argument, it was at least the result of example. This may perhaps now that the old religion sat somewhat lightly on its votaries, and in some cases the new religion seems to have sat somewhats lightly on its converse. The Christian king sometimes had heathen sons, and their accession a hundred years, all the English kingdoms had become Christian. The men of Wight in their island, and the men of Sussex isolated between the sea and the great wood, were the last to cleave to the idols of their fathers. The seventh century was the great time of struggle between the two religions. It was also the time when Mercia land, Wessex, and Kent. Kent soon sinks into a secondary rank, and leaves the first place to be disputed between the three other great powers. At the beginning of the period when the first Roman missionaries came, in 597 the Bretwaldadom, which had been held b Aelle of Sussex and Ceawlin of Wessex, was held by Aethelberht of Kent. He is expressly said to have been supreme over all the kingdoms south of the Humber. That this supremacy was not a more name is shewn by the fact that his safe-conduct held good when Augustine crossed the still heathen land of Wessex to confer with the British bishops on the banks of the Severn. Under Aethelberht, the Kentish Church was planted by Augustine, and from Kent the new teaching spread over Essex and East-Anglia. From Kent too come the first conversion of Northumberland, and with it of Lindesey, by the preaching of Paulinus under the powerful Bretwalda Eadwine of Deira. That king had, before his conversion, conquered the Welsh kingdom of Loidis and Elmet, and had made, Northumberland the first power in Britain. His first rivalry was with Wessex, which he brought to acknowledge his supremacy. After his conversion he had to endure the more dangerous enmity of two powers which united against him on different grounds. The Teutonic conqueror was hateful to the Briton Caedwalla, whose kingdom of Strathclyde, cut off from his southern countrymen by victory of Aesthefrith, was still a powerful state. The Chistian convert was hateful to the heathen Penda, under whom Mercia first became great. Before the two Eadwine at Heatfield in 633 and with him fell for a moment the Christianity and the power of Mercia grew equally to the south at the expense of Wessex. But this first burst of Mercian power was not to be lasting. Before long Northumberland was again united, powerful, and Christian, under the Bernician Bretwaldas, and her power and religion were first restored for a while by Oswald the saint. He overthrew his British and Christian enemy at Heavenfield in 635. This is a date of importance. In some sort it makes the completion of the English conquest. Much British land was still to be won by hard fighting ; but Caedwall was the last British prince who could wage aggressive and dangerous warfare against an English rival. Against his heathen and English enemy Oswald was less successful. He too, like Eadwine, fell before Penda at Maserfield in 642. A time of confusion and division followed, but under Oswin, the next Bretwalda, Northumberland rose again. In 654 Penda fell before him at Winwedfield, and the armed strife between Christianity and Heathendom was at an end. The second conversation of Northumberland, and the conversion of Mercia which followed the fall of Penda, were chiefly the work of the Scots. That name, it must be remembered, though it does not shut out the Scottish colony in Britain, primarily means the original Scots of Ireland. Columbia and his successors in their holy island linked the two together, and both were zealous in the missionary work, both in Britain and on the continent. But, though a large part of England thus owed its Christianity to the Scots, yet the special Scottish usages did not abide in the churches of Northumberland and Mercia. After much debating, the Bretwalda Oswin adopted, on behalf of is people, the usages of Rome and Kent. Meanwhile Wessex had been converted by an independent mission from the Franks of Gaul under its apostle Birinus. The heathendom of Sussex gave way in 681 to the preaching of the Northumbrian Wilfrith, and a few years later the men of Wight, the last abiding-place of the old gods, were partly converted by Wilfrith, partly slaughtered by the West-Saxon Ceadwalla. All England was low Christian; and the English Church was finally organized between 668 and 690 by Theodore of Tarsus. The Roman, the Scot, and the man of the East, thus all worked together to bring the English conquerors of Britain within the pale of the Christian Church, and thereby within the general world of Europe.
There is something wonderful in the way in which Christianity fitted itself in, so to speak, to the old Teutonic institutions of England. The change in mens thought, the change in their ways of looking at most things, must have been great ; but there is no sudden break. The old political and social state goes on ; the old laws and institutions are not abolished ; they are hardly modified ; all that happens is that many new laws are inserted among the old. But the laws bear the old character. The old scale of ranks is enlarged to take in some new members, in the form of the various degrees of the Christian priesthood. Some new crimes are forbidden : some new observances are enjoined; but the spirit of the law, the nature of the penalties, the manner of their execution, remains the same. The various ranks of the clergy have their value, in Teutonic fashion, along with the various ranks of the laity. Churches arose, and the fabrics, with their ministers and their property, were placed under the protection of the law. Provisions against idolatrous practices are found ; but the old faith passed away to easily that but little legislation of this kind was needed. The land received a new geographical division in the form of ecclesiastical provinces and diocesses ; but these commonly followed the existing civil geography. The extent of the bishops diocese coincided with that of some kingdom or principality, and, as the ecclesiastical divisions underwent, till quite late times, much less change than the civil ones, the boundaries of the dioceses are our best guides to the boundaries of the old kingdoms and ealdormanships. Nowhere was the Church more thoroughly national than in England. The old assembly of the shire received the biship as a new chief, along with the ancient ealdorman, and the two sat together jointly to hear matters the more minute jurisprudence of a later time divided into causes ecclesiastical and causes temporal. Bishops, abbots, and other churchmen, became prominent in the counsels of kings and in the assemblies of the nation. A century or two later, we even find them leading the national armies to battle. Through the whole native history of England, we find no traces of any of the controversies between Church and State which show themselves in later times. In truth, Church and State did not exist as two distinct bodies ; they hardly existed as two distinct ideas. As the army was the nation in its military aspect, so the Church was the nation in its religious aspect. The leaders of the body might be different according to the matter in hand ; but the body itself was one.
This strongly national character of the ancient English Church naturally followed on the time and manner of the conversion of the English nation. The English were not like the Teutonic conquerors on the continent, in whose eyes the Church was a Roman institution, alongside of other Roman institutions. In Gaul and Spain, for some generations after the Teutonic conquest, ecclesiastical power and office remained in the hands of the conquered. In some later conversions the Church was a foreign institution through an opposite cause. It was an institution forced on the people by their conquerors. In England neither of these causes of separation had any being. The English of their own free will accepted the creed of foreign teachers ; but the Church was not to them a foreign institution. The first two or three bishops of each see were necessarily strangers ; but as soon as Englishmen were found fitted for such offices, they held them to the exclusion of strangers. It is hard to find a foreign prelate in England between Theodore of Tarsus and Robert of Jumiéges. Again, when England was converted, the privileges of the clergy as an order, the powers of the bishop of Rome as their head, were things which were still in their infancy. The claims made by the clergy and the popes in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries would have been unintelligible either to Aethelberth or to Augustine. There was nothing in England to part off the clergy, as a body having feelings and interest distinct from the rest of the nation. There was nothing to tempt the Roman bishops, subjects as they still were of the Roman emperors, to put forth the claims of an Hildebrand or an Innocent. There was nothing to make them claim from the newly founded English Church anything beyond the reverence due to a parent from a child who has already reached full age.
In short, if we look through our early law, and seek for changes in the law itselfas distinguished from legislation on new subjectswhich can be said to be directly owing to the change of religion, we shall find few indeed. It is indeed very likely that the power of bequeathing property by will was introduced by the Roman clergy. There is a remarkable reference to the practice which impulses as much ;1 and we know that the wills of dead men were a matter which the clergy took largely into their own hands, and which became in the end a subject for the specially ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Yet the power of willing may have grown up in England, just as it did at Rome. In the beginning a will is an exceptional act. The testator prays the community to allow his goods to be disposed of in a particular way. The confirmation gradually becomes matter of form ; at last it is altogether dispensed with, and the power of bequest, once a privilege granted in a particular case, becomes the common right of every man. Still there is a strong likelihood the other way, and it may well be that the power of bequest has really been transferred from the Roman law to that of England. Only, if so it be, it must be remembered that it is no heritage from the inhabitants of the Roman province of Britain. It is something which was brought in afresh, as part of the ecclesiastical system of Grogory and Augustine.
Another novelty in our law, which directly owing to the conversion, was the institution of ecclesiastical property. This is plain on the face of it. Nothing could be given for the support of the new religion till the new religion had been accepted. Bu the institution of ecclesiastical property involved something more than this. If it did not from the beginning imply the legal doctrine of corporate property, it at least soon grew into it. This doctrine is something wholly distinct from the primitive communal property. It presupposes the intermediate stage of private ownership. The land is first cut off from the common possession to form the particular possession of this or that person. Then, by a legal fiction, several persons are clothed with the attributes of a single person, and the artificial being called a corporation appears. Such corporations were quite familiar to Roman law ; but it is inconceivable that any such subtlety should have been thought of in primitive Teutonic times. The king or ealdorman, who gave lands to this or that church,commonly under the formula of giving to God, or to such and a saint,if we did not eat at once create, at least paved the way for, all the fictions and subtleties of law with regard to corporations of all kinds, lay and spiritual, aggregate and sole.
It was also doubtless owing the direct Christian influence that the early jurisprudence of England came to differ in one singular point from that of other Teutonic nations. The wager of battle, an original Teutonic institution, one which was brought again into England in later times, seems to have been altogether disused between the conversion and the Norman conquest. It has an English name, the ornest, but it is quite unknown to English law or English usage. Its place is taken by the direct appeal to the judgment of God in the form of the ordeal. The divine power, it was held, would directly interfere to save the innocent and to punish the guilty. We need not suppose that the ordeal itself was an invention of Christian teachers. The same idea may be found in many customs in other parts of the world. But it must be owing the direct Christian teaching that the judgement by hot iron or hot water altogether drove out the more warlike appeal to the judgment of battle, so that this last came in again in after times in the guise of a foreign innovation.
But, small as were the direct legal or political changes which it, wrought, the conversion of the English, even setting aside its purely theological and spiritual side, was the greatest event in the history of our nation. The effects which it is wrought were great and manifold. The Roman missionaries brought with them a new learning, a new culture. The little influence which Rome had on our language and laws, before the great continental infusion of later times, was due for more to the days of the conversion that to the days of the first conquest. Our forefathers translated a great number of ecclesiastical terms, some of which we have come again to use in a Latin shape. Still, as new things must have new names, the Roman missionaries brought into our language a good many Latin words to expresses ecclesiastical idea and seemingly a few other words, expressing other objects of Roman culture. Here was a second Roman infusion into our Teutonic speech. It was an infusion far greater than the handful of Latin words which we picked up in the course of the first conquest ; but it was still an infusion which in no way affected the purity of our native vocabulary. Some foreign things kept their names ; but no native thing changed its native name for a foreign one. The effect on language was in short much the same as the effect on law. There was no break, no change ; only certain new elements were adopted and assimilated by the old.
But if the conversion wrought but little change in the English tongue, it breathed a new literary life into the English people. The missionaries brought with them the whole learning of their time, and above all, the use of the Latin languages. Latin, it must be remembered, was still not merely the literary tongue, but the common every-day speech of Western Europe. The dialects which grow into the Romance languages had doubtless already begun to form themselves ;but no one looked on them as anything but vulgar dialects of Latin ; no one thought of committing them to writing, or of using them for any serious purpose. A people who knew no Latin were cut off from all intercourse with the civilized world of the West ; a people among whom Latin was cultivated at once formed part of that world. From the coming of Augustine, "book Latin" again took its place among the languages of Britain.1 But happily it always remained "book Latin." It never displaced the native Teutonic speech on the lips of men ; it never even out the native speech from the rank of a cultivated language possessing a written literature. Or rather, the general intellectual impulse which followed on the conversion, while it first gave us a Latin literature, also first made our English written litrature. We learned to use a more convenient alphabet than the runes, a more convenient writing material than the beech. English was, what the Romance languages were not as yet, so far apart from Latin that the two languages, the two literatures, could live side by side. One point only is to be regretted. It is at once the strength and the weakness of the Latin Church, and one of her points of contrast with the Churches of the East, that, wherever her system is accepted in its fulness, she imposes the tongue of Rome as the one tongue of religious worship. Like crowds of other laws and usages, good and bad, this usage came about of itself, without any set purpose ; it was only when it was objected to in after times that arguments were sought for to defend it. Was in England that the practice began of having divine service in a tongue not understanded of the people. That is to say, England was the first country of wholly foreign speech which the Roman Church had to deal with. It had not come into any mans head to translate the mass or the lectionary into the dialects of Gaul or Spain. Indeed we may be sure that the time for such a step was not yet come ; the ecclesiastical Latin was doubtless at least as intelligible then as the English of the sixteenth century is now. Thus men who were accustomed only to Latin in public worship went on using it, even in a country where the same reasons which pleaded for the use of Latin at Rome pleaded no less strongly for the use of English. But this was only error ; the tongue was in no way discouraged as the tongue either of devotional writ or of translations or paraphrases of Scripture. A noble Christian literature soon grew up in the English tongue. The only thing to be lamented is that its growth must have put the older heathen literature under a cloud. The songs which record the English conquest live only in Latin fragments, and Beowulf himself has been taught to utter Christian phrases, if only with stammering lips.
The two ends of England contributed to the growth of the new English literature. Our Christian English poetry is of Deira ; our English prose is of Wessex; our Latin literature, our earliest history in literary shape is of Bernicia. Caedmon of Streoneshalh led the way, the first of our English sacred poets, he who, a thousand years before Milton, dealt with Miltons theme in Miltons spirit-he who sang the warfare of Hebrew patriarchs with the true ring of a Teutonic battle-song. Next came Baeda of Jarrow, the first who recorded English history in Latin prose, and who, amid a crowd of Latin writings, did not forget the rendering of the gospel into the tongue of his own people. For the Caedmon there might have been a place in the older state of things ; for Baeda there could have been none. Caedmon, born while parts of England were still heathen, might have been a heathen born ; he might, in the self-same spirit, with little more than the change of names, have sung of Woden and Loki instead of Christ and Satan ; he might have told the tale of Ida warring with the Briton instead of the tale of Abraham warring with the kings of Caanan. But Baeda is the direct offspring of the great religious change. The monk, the student, who never struck a blow in battle or raised his voice in the assembly of shire or kingdom, was a new character among Englishmen. Yet Baeda is English too ; he is no stranger to us ; he is the man of our own race, as the man of our race might now become under a state of things so far removed from the thoughts of the olden time. Of English prose, though in a sense it begins with Baeda, the true and full growth is later. Its founders it the king who was at once the judge, the captain, and the teacher of his people, West-Saxon Aelfred himself.
We may also safely say that it was with the conversion to Christianity that the first rudiments of art were brought back into Britain. As heathen Rome taught her culture to the Briton, so Christian Rome taught her culture to the Englishman. How far the monuments of Roman skill were designedly swept it might be hard to say. Most likely there was no design in the matter. Much would perish in the ordinary course of barbarian havoc, and there was no English Theodoric to guard what escaped. It is a speaking fact that a Roman column standing in its place is a thing unknown in Britain. We may be sure that the art of stone building was unknown to the heathen English in their old homes; nor was there anything in the circumstances of their settlement in their new homes to lead their thoughts in that direction. Architecture, and with it the other arts, painting, music, and the rest, came in again in the wake of the Church were built in the style which was then usual in Italy, churches of brick or stone with round arches. Sometimes a Roman ruin was still able to be repaired ; more commonly it supplied materials for a new-building. When the tall bell-towers came into fashion in Italy, they were imitated in England also. Thus arose, in England as elsewhere, that early round-arched style, based directly on Italian models, which formed the usual style of all western Europe till the eleventh century. The art of those days was mainly ecclesiastical. House were commonly, most likely always, of wood till the coming of the Normans. The Roman military works seem hardly to have been imitated till the great aera of fortification in the tenth century.
With the new religion the land received a whooly new class of mankind, utterly unknown to the heathen Teutons, the class of men and women devoted to the religious life. Monasticism forms a marked feature in some pagan systems ; but it had no place in the old Teutonic religion. We had not so much as anything that answered to the virgins of Vesta. But Teutonic monasticism took a character of its own. Monasteries became private inheritances the distinction was not always very accurately drawn between the ordained monk and the secular priest, between the unordained monk and the layman. Celibacy was doubtless essential to the very laxest form of the monastic life ; but we shall look in vain in the early monasteries of England for any very strict observance of the rule of Saint Benedict. There was room however in them alike for the ascetic scholarship of Baeda and for the ruder zeal which led a crowd of men and women of all ranks, among them kings daughters and even reigning kings, to forsaken the world to embrace the religious life. A large proportion of the native saints of the English calendar were supplied by those kingly houses whose pride had once been to be sprung of the blood of the gods of heathendom.
This last idea had of course wholly to change its shape under the influence of the new faith. The pedigree was not forgotten; Woden was still the forefather of all the kingly houses. But Woden was now found out to have been a mere mortal hero, the descendant of Noah in such and such a generation. We may suspect that one effect of Christianity was to lessen the reverence for the kingly stock as such, to strengthen the elective element, and to make it easier to choose kings who were not of kingly descent. The analogy alike of the Romanl emperors and of ecclesiastical officers of all kinds would work the same way. But kingship, as an office, was in Christian hands clothed with a higher majesty, and become an object of deeper reverence. If one form of sanctity was taken away from the son of Woden, he gradually obtained another in his new character of the lords Anointed. At least from the eighth century, perhaps from an earlier time, English kings began, as the emperors had long been, to be admitted to their office with ecclesiastical ceremonies, among which the rite of unction held the chief place. The king thus became in some measure a sharer in the sanctity of the priesthood. He was clothed in sacred vestments, and enjoyed sacred privileges beyond the laymen of ordinary degree. But this only brought out more strongly his position as holding an office according to law. The priest, the abbot, the bishop, was chosen, and admitted to his office according to a known law. According to the same law, he might, in case of demerit, be deposed from his office. So it was with the kingly office. The greater the mysterious sanctity that was shed over the kingly office, the more was his person shorn of all mysterious sanctity. He held a sacred office ; but the sacred office might, like any other office, be taken away from an unworthy holder. On the other hand, the growing practice of personal commendation stepped in to restore the balance, and to strengthen the kings personal authority. He became the personal lord of all the chief men in his kingdom. They were bound to him by a voluntary tie of personal faith and honour. But these two growing notions which made the king, on the one hand a personal lord, on the other hand an ecclesiastical officer, worked together somewhat to wipe out the idea of the king as the head of the people, the chief, the judge and captain of the community commanding obedience directly as the head of the state, without any need either of religious consecration or of personal allergiance.
But if the new religion thus modified the older ideas of kingship, and tended on the whole to strengthen the kingly power, it affected the national being of the English people in a yet more direct way. In fact, it created that national being. Hitherto there had been no tie to bind together the various and fluctuating tie of the Bretwaldadom. Had the Bretwaldadom been permanent, it might have gradually fused all the Teutonic settlements into one nation. In the form which it actually took, it was a mere momentary superiority of one kingdom over others, which was naturally irksome, and was thrown off as soon as might be. The Church sowed the seeds of a truer national unity by accustoming Englishmen from different kingdoms to act together, and to acknowledge a common head. England had national synods long before she had national parliaments. Her kingdoms acknowledged a common primate long before they acknowledge a common king. The original scheme of Gregory would have divided Britain into two ecclesiastical provinces of much the same extent. York was to have taken in all Scotland ; but the claim of York to ecclesiastical jurisdiction over Scotland was always precarious, commonly nominal, and it was in the end formally abolished. The regular succession of archbishops of York began later than that of Canterbury, and the northern primate, sometimes with one or two suffragans, sometimes with none at all, never practically held the same metropolitan position as the archbishop of Canterbury. This last became, long before any king could so call himself, the "head of Anglekin,"1 the chief of the English nation, irrespective of political divisions. And such an influence was purely national. It gave no political importance to the secondary, soon to become the dependent, kingdom of Kent. It worked however when Kent had been merged in Wessex, to help the advance of Wessex, and to settle the general headship of England in the south. And, in the same way, the position of the see of York, which in practice was not so much an archbishopric as a great and powerful independent bishopric, doubtless did much to strengthen the general tendency of Northumberland to keep up a being distinct from that of southern England.
Thus, before the end of the seventh century, Teutonic and heathen England had embraced a new creed, and with that creed it had received those changes in thought, law, and custom which could not fail to follow on such a conversion. One change above all affects the general history. Warfare still goes on, warfare alike with the Britons and with Englishmen of other kingdoms ; but warfare no longer implies extermination. Where the heathen conqueror carried mere slaughter and havoc, the Christian conqueror was satisfied with political subjection. The overthrow of Deva by Aethelfrith may well have been the last cae of mere destruction. The greatness and fall of Penda form part of the history of the conversion ; his reign was the armed resistance of heathendom to the new faith. His alliance with Caedwalla gave the Briton his last chance of greatness at the cost of the Teutonic intruder. When Caedwalla and Penda had both fallen before the sword of the Northumbrian Bretwaldas, two questions were solved. The Teuton and not the Celt was to be dominant in southern Britain; but the rule of the Teuton was to be a Christian and not a heathen rule. But a third question, which of the Teutonic powers in Britain should become the head of Britain, was still undecided. This question took more than a hundred years to settle, and it was at last settled in a way which was hardly to be looked for. During the greater part of the seventh and eighth centuries the struggle seemed to lie wholly between Northumberland and Mercia. Wessex seems to have given up all her schemes of aggrandizement in central Britain. She gradually loses her dominion north of the Thams; it is sometimes more than she can do to maintain her own independence against Mercian supremacy. But all the while she is gradually extending her dominion at the expense of the Britons to the west. She is also, in the latter part of the period, establishing a supremacy over the smaller Englihs kingdoms to the east. The Wessex of 800 A.D. was a state of a wholly different shape on the map from the Wessex of 600 A.D. The West-Saxon kings, from the seventh century onwards ruled over a realm of quite a different character from any of the earlier English kingdoms. Their werstern conquests, form the northern Axe to the Tamar, made them, now that the days of mere slaughter hand havoc passed, masters of a realm which contained British as well as English subjects. In the laws of Ine (675-693) we find the picture of a land in which the Britons are under the full protection of the law, but in which they form a distinct class, marked as inferior to the dominant English. The Welshmans oath and the Welshmans life both have their value ; but they are rated at a less value than the oath and the life of an Englishman of the same rank. When we turn to the laws of Aelfred (878-901), no trace of any such distinction is left. He legislates for a purely English realm. That is to say, the Welsh within the West-Saxon kingdom had, in the course of those two hundred years, become naturalalized Englishmen. The impassable barrier of creed which divided the Christian Briton from the heathen Teuton had now passed away. There was nothing to hinder the conquered, when once admitted to legal protection, from gradually adopting the tongue and manners of their conquerors.
The same work must have been going on along the Mercian frontier also ; but here we have not the means of studying it in the same detail. During these hundred and fifty years the Mercian kings spread their dominion a long way westward of the boundary stream of the Severn. But we hear far more of them as warring, often as conquerors, against the English powers to the north and south of them. But at the beginning of this period Northumberland still remains the greatest power of Britain. For a while after the death of Penda her supremacy was undoubted. Mercia then again became independent, and under Wulfhere (657-675) and his successor Aethelred (675-703), who died a monk, pressed for towards the dominion of southern as well as of central England. Meanwhile, Ecgfrith of Northumberland (670-685) was pressing on to the further north, as the West-Saxon kings were to the extreme west. Northumberland, it must be remembered, reached to the Forth ; but to the west it was hemmed in by the British land which stretched to the Clyde. This last Ecgfrith incorporated with his dominions. Carlisle and its district, a land which was in after days to become English again, now became English for a moment, as well as the land to the west which was not to become English again. But Ectfrith fell in a war with the Picts beyond the Forth, and the dominion of Northumberland died with him. The northern land still remained for a while the chief seat of learning and culture, the land of Caedmon and Baeda. But its political power fell with Ecgfrith. The stoutest Northumbrian kings of the eighth century could at most keep their own borders against the Mercian, or again win victories against the North Briton. Of the Bretwaldadom of the seventh century they had no hope. Towards the end of the eighth century Northumberland fell into a state of confusion and division, which made it an easy prey for any enemy.
During the greater part of the eighth everything looked as if the chief place in the island was destined for Mercia Aethelbald (716-757), Offa (757-796), and Cenwulf (797-819), through three long reigns, taking in more than a century, kept up the might and glory of their kingdom. Meanwhile, in Wessex a series of valiant kings pressed westward against the Briton, and bore up against the Mercian. But to bear up was as much as they could do. The fight of Burford in 752, under the West-Saxon king Cuthred, secured the independence of Wessex; but it secured only her independence ; her northern frontier was finally cut short by Offa. This last is the greatest name in Mercian history. Though none of these Mercian kings are enrolled on the list of Bretwaldas, yet the position of Offa was as great as that of any English king before the final union of the kingdoms. In one way it was higher than that of any of them. Offa held, not only a British, but an European position. Britain was now again threatened with annexation by a continental power. Charles the Great, not yet crowded Caesar and Augustus, but already virtual lord of Rome, exercised an influence in British affairs such as no prince of the mainland had ever exercised since Honorius withdraw his legions. That Englishmen, the famous Alcuin (Ealhwine) at their head, held places at his court and in his favour was simply part of the wise encouragement which he held out to learning and merit everywhere. But the great Frankish king exercised direct influence, if not supremacy, in several parts of our island. The Scots are, at least by his own annalist, counted among his homagers. Northumberland took back a king at his bidding. A banished West-Saxon prince learned in his school the art of founding empires. But with the great king of the Mercians Charles correspond as an equal. War was once threatened, but only threatened, between the great potentates of the island and of the mainland. In the next reign Cenwulf found it needful to put it clearly on record that neither the bishop of Rome nor the emperor of Rome had any jurisdiction in his realm of Mercia. These dealings with the continental empire should be marked, both on their own account and because of the light which they throw on some later passages in British history.
Charles, lord of the western world of Rome, was not fated to become lord of the island world of Britain. But a nearer approach to that character than had yet fallen to any English prince was in store for the friend and pupil of the great emperor. West-Saxon Ecgberht went back from the Frankish court to do in Britain as nearly as he could what Charles had done in Germany and Gaul. He went back to become the eighth Bretwalds, and more than a Bretwalda. The day of Northumberland and the day of Mercia had passed ; the day of Wessex had come. The single reign of Ecgberht (802-837) place her for ever at the head of the powers of Britain. Immediate king only south of the Thames, Ecgberht stretched his overlordship to the Forth, and in what no Bretwalda had done before him, he handed on his dominion to his successors. But the dominion of Ecgberht must not be mistaken for a kingdom of all England. He was king of the West-Saxons ; once only does he call himself King of the English. But the kingdoms of Kent, Sussex, and Essex were now, as the West-Saxon shire had once been, by under-kings of the West-Saxon house. In Mercia, Northumberland, and East-Anglia native kings still reigned, but they held their crowns as the men of the West-Saxon overlord, And in neither was the West Saxon supremacy are mere precarious dominion, like that of the earlier Bretwaldas. Both relations were steps towards more perfect incorporation ; they were stages in the process by which Wessex grew into England.
The name of England is not yet found in any contemporary writer. It came into use in the course of the next century. In truth, the oldest name for the Teutonic part of Britain is not England, but Saxony. This is only what was to be looked for. The lands won by the Teutons would first receive a common name from the Celts of the island, and that name, according to their usage, would naturally be Saxony. The Teutonic settlers themselves would not give their country a common name till they had reached some degree of political unity ; but when they gave it a name, that name was naturally England. England, in short, as a political unity, began to be formed in the ninth century ; it received its name in the tenth. Now that the various English kingdoms are brought so closely together, we begin to fell the need of a geographical name which may take them all in. Some name is needed, some name was doubtless soon felt to be needed, to distinguish the English kingdoms now united under West-Saxon supremacy from the other parts of the island. The position of Ecgberht could not be so well described as by calling him king of the West-Saxon and lord of all England. Lord of all Britain he was not, though he came nearer to being so than any prince before him. West-Wales, if not actually incorporated, was brought into thorough dependence, and the princes of North-Walesthat is, Wales in the modern sensewere brought to acknowledge the West-Saxon supremacy. The Welsh of Stratchclyde, the Picts and the Scots, remained independent and untouched.
Thus, though a kingdom of England was not yet formed, the greatest of all steps had been taken towards forming it. But the work of Ecgberht had stood but for a little while when it seemed to be swept away for ever. Yet while it seemed to be swept away for ever. Yet while it seemed to be swept away, it was in truth both quickened and strengthened by an event which forms one of the great landmarks in our story, an event which has no parallel since the first settlement of the English in Britain. The English conquest was in some sort wrought over again. Christian Britain was again attacked by heathen invaders, and a large part of it was again brought under heathen rule. The West-Saxon supremacy seemed to vanish away; the West-Saxon kingdom itself was for a moment overcome. But the blows which overcome kingdom and supremacy did in truth only enable Ecgberhts successors again to do Ecgberhts work more thoroughly.
The dominion of Ecgberht passed to his son Aethelwulf (837-858), and from him to four of his sons in succession, Aethelbald, Aethelberht Aethelred (858-871), and the more famous Aelfred (871-900). This succession involves a constitutional point ; for we hear of a will of Aethelwulf, confirmed by the Witan, by which the order in which his sons were to succeed to the crown was arranged beforehand. There is in this no formal surrender of the right of the nation to choose its king ; for the confirmation by the Witan was equivalent to a conditional election in advance. But that the crown could be made the subject of bequest in any shape shows the growth of a whole crowd of ideas which had no place in the elder Teutonic system. We are, to say the least, on the way towards the doctrine that the leadership of men is not an office but a property. This is the first case of any attempt to settle the succession beforehand, and as in most other cases afterwards, the attempt failed. The sons of Aethelwulf succeeded ; but they did not succeed in the order marked out by their fathers will. Another point which marks the increasing intercourse between England and the mainland is the fact the Aethelwulf made the pilgrimage to Rome. More than one king had given up his crown, and had ended his days at Rome ; but this is the first case of a reigning king thus absenting himself from his kingdom. On his return also he married a foreign wife, Judith the daughter of Charles the Bald. This is the first recorded case of the kind since the marriage of Aethelberht of Kent ; and we shall find only one more in the whole line before the Norman Conquest. As long as England remained purely England, the mothers of English kings were Englishwomen.
Another point with regard to the succession should be noticed. On the death of Aethelred succeeded, though Aethelred had children living. This is course simply an instance of the general law of choosing from the royal house, but of choosing only one who was personally qualified to reign. Minors were therefore passed by, as a matter of course, in favour of a full grown uncle or other kinsman. The children thus shut out might or might not be chosen at some future vacancy. The right of Aelfred to his crown was not disputed in his own day, nor has he commonly been branded by later historians with the name of usurper. But it is well to bear in mind that his succession was of exactly the same kind as that of some later kings to whom the name of usurper has been freely applied. In all such cases the mistake comes from forgetting that the strict laws of succession to which we have been used for the last two or three centuries were altogether unknown in the earlier stages of our constitution.
FOOTNOTE (page 272)
(1)Beech and book are the same word, just like the two senses of the Latin liber. Write is cognate with the High-Dutch reissen, just like scribere with scrobs.
FOOTNOTE (p. 277)
1 Dunaer, Dunor, in modern form Thunder, is the true English name. The more familiar form Thor is, like most Scandinavian forms, a contraction. Thursday is for Dundresdoeg.
1 The Norman writer William of Poitiers (p. 128 Giles) makes Harold thus answer William claim by Eadwards bequest:Ab eo tempore quo beatus Augustinus in hanc venit regionem, communem gentis hujus fuisse consuetudinem donationem, quam in ultimo fine suo quis fecerit, eam ratam habere." It is an odd quarter to go to for a statement of English law, but its soundness can hardly be doubted.
FOOTNOTE (p. 280)
1The Chronicles at the very beginning say, "Her synd on pam iglande fif gepeóduAenglisc, Brytwylsc, Scottys, Pihttisc, and Boclaeden." This translates Baedas list "Anglorum videlicet, Britonum, Scottorum, Pictorum, et Latinorum, quae meditatione scripturarum caeteris omnibus est facta communis."
1 In the poem on the martyrdom of Aelfheah in the Chronicles, 1011, the archbishop is called
"Se pe aer waes heafod
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