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strangely inconsistent with modern notions of penal justice. The horrible torture of burning out the eyes was not only inflicted for delinquency, but sometimes merely to incapacitate a rival. Although theft to the amount of twelvepence was a capital offence, yet the taking away life might be commuted for a pecuniary penalty. This was the were, and varied with the rank of the sufferer: for the murder of the king, the penalty was 30,000 thrymsas ;* for a prince, one-half; for an alderman, or earl, and a bishop, 8000; for a thane, 2000; and for a ceorl (churl; supposed by some writers to have been a slave), 260. If the legal value of human life were made to vary, it is no wonder that personal estimation varied in the same way; thus the oath of a twelve-hyndman was equal to the oath of six ceorls. Besides the were, a security was afforded to the peace and safety of the house, called the mund ; and this, like the were, varied in amount with the rank of the party.
In institutions of this description it is impossible to recognise a high degree of legislative wisdom or social happiness. If it is further borne in mind that science and literature were almost unknown, we shall be constrained to admit that the Anglo-Saxons are
* A thrymsa exceeded sixpence in value, and was equal to three Saxon pence. Five pence were equal to a Saxon shilling. As the Anglo-Saxon pound troy was equivalent to forty-eight shillings, while the same quantity is at present coined into sixty-six; the silver in the more ancient shillings surpasses that in the modern by about one-fourth.
not the fount from which we ought to seek enlightened examples of order and freedom. Over this part of history, therefore, I shall pass, as an unfruitful waste of darkness and Vandalism, and commence at the subsequent era of the Conquest.
Classes of Society after the Conquest — Traffic in Slaves,
Beneficial Influence of Christianity – Increase of Towns and Progress of Manufactures-Corporate Immunities—Effects of a Pestilence on Condition of Labouring Classes_Statute of Labourers-Absurd Legislation—Vast Possessions of the Nobility -A taste for Luxury and the Arts generated— Villanage nearly extinct-Occupation, Diet, and Wages of Labourers.
For a long time after the Conquest, the AngloSaxon subdivisions of society were maintained, and the inhabitants of England were divided into the two great classes of freemen and slaves. Except the baronial proprietors of land and their vassals, the free tenants and socmen, the rest of the nation was depressed in servitude, which, though qualified as to its effects, was uniform in its principle, that none who had been born in, or had fallen into bondage could acquire an absolute right to any species of property.
The condition, however, of the people who were thus debarred from the first of social rights, was not in other respects equally abject and miserable. One class of villains, or villagers, though bound to the most servile offices of rural industry, were permitted to occupy small portions of land to sustain themselves and families. Other ranks of men, equally servile, are noticed in the ancient records, particularly the bordars and cottars, the former in consideration of being allowed a small cottage, were required to provide poultry, eggs, and other articles of diet for the lord's table; and the latter were employed in the trades of smith, carpenter, and other handicraft arts, in which they had been instructed at the charge of their masters. Inferior to these were the thralls, or servi, principally employed in menial services about the mansion.
Their lives were professedly protected by law, and with the consent of their owners they were allowed in some cases to purchase their manumission. In other respects they were in the lowest degradation ; so much so as to be considered mere chattels and regular articles of commerce. Giraldus relates that the number of them exported to Ireland for sale in the reign of Henry II. was so great that the market was absolutely overstocked; and from William I. to the reign of John, scarcely a cottage in Scotland but possessed an English slave. In the details of the border wars, mention is frequently made of the number of slaves taken prisoners as forming a principal part of the booty.
It is not easy to ascertain from writers the precise immunities of the several classes of bondmen mentioned; the chief differences in their condition arose probably from the relative utility of their occupations; the servi, or serfs, as least valuable, being a more ordinary article of traffic and transfer than the bordars and cottars who had been trained to useful arts or btained a fixed habitation.*
All, however, alike appear to have been denuded of the substantial attributes of freedom; the law recognised in none the uncontrolled right to property or change of place without the consent of their superiors; the lord had the absolute disposal of their persons, they might be attached to the soit or transferred by deed, sale, or conveyance, from one owner to another; in short they were slaves in the strictest sense of the word-men under an obligation of perpetual servitude, which the consent of the master could alone dissolve, and in all probability enjoyed less legal protection from the ill-usage of their oppressors than the humanity of modern legislation has extended to the brute creation.
The population of England, according to Mr. Tur
* The difficulty of obtaining precise notions of the civil distinctions of society is not confined to English history. Historians are not exactly agreed about the social rank and immunities of the patricians, clients, and plebeians of ancien i Rome. Posterity some centuries hence will be greatly at a loss to form correct ideas of the relative condition of the several classes appertaining to the metropolis; of the franchises of the citizens, freemen, liverymen, and parliamentary electors of the city of London, as distinguished from the inhabitants living without the narrow jurisdiction of the city, and not shariny either in the immunities of the general corporation, or of numerous incorporated fraternities.
ner, after the desolation of the northern counties by the Normans, amounted to about 1,700,000. One hundred thousand souls are supposed to have been swept away by the Conqueror in laying waste the country betwixt the Humber and the Tees. Attempts have been made to class the population existing at the close of the Anglo-Saxon period into its several proportions of nobles, freemen, and those of servile condition, but with no great pretension to accuracy. In thirty-four counties the burgesses and citizens are made to amount to 17,105; the villains to 102,704 ; the bordars to 74,823; the cottars to 5947; the serfs or thralls to 26,552: the remaining population consisted of freemen, ecclesiastics, knights, thanes, and landowners. In the opinion of Sir James Mackintosh (History of England, v. i. p. 78), the persons strictly slaves were not above one out of every seven of the higher laborious classes of villains, bordars, and cottars.
Of the domestic comforts enjoyed by this class of people, history affords little information. It may be presumed that from motives of interest the lord would take care of his villain, and supply him in infancy and manhood with the essential necessaries of food, raiment, and lodging. In this consists almost the solitary advantage of slavery over free-labour, it creates in the master the same motives for rearing and preserving his thralls as his cattle-a tie dissolved by the labourer becoming independent, and left to his own prudence to make a provision for the vicissitudes of health and employment.