William Thomson.

A tour in England and Scotland, in 1785 online

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port, on their return home, whatever they
deemed likely to improve the government of
Iceland. And hence, the laws of Iceland,
framed during the time of the republic,
contain or refer to many particulars that
throw not a little light on our own. Trial
by jury, for example, was adhered to in
Iceland, with ftill greater care than in Eng-
land i the nature of juries more fully dif-
played j and the duty of jurymen more ex-
actly defined. In Iceland, the number of
men of which juries confirmed, varied from
fix or feven even to an hundred, according
to the magnitude of the crime to be tried ;
and it was always in the power of the per-
fon accufed, to challenge not only any part,
but even the whole of the jury : fo great
Z was

( 358 )

was the regard formerly paid in that remote
ifland to the natural rights of mankind !

There is not, in the prefent period,
any court in Europe, the Ruffian not except-
ed, which expends fuch large fums on
the advancement of arts and fciences as
that of Denmark. His Daniih. Majefty, the
Prince Royal, and the great men who con-
duel the affairs of the kingdom, ftrongly
impreffed with the juft notion that great
light may be thrown on the prefent flate of
Denmark, as well as of other kingdoms, by
an accurate enquiry into the fettlements or
colonies of their anceflors, have given or-
ders for publifhing a collection of all the
Danifh Writers of the middle age.* For
this purpofe, the learned Jacob Langebeck
was fent, at his Majefty's expence, on a tour


* Of the Scriptores Rerum Danicarum, fix volumes in
folio are already printed ; among which is a. work by Snorro
Thurlfonj publifhed at the expence of his Royal Highnds
Prince Frederick, brother to the King, which illuftrates the
antient hiftory of Northumberland.

( 359 )

through Sweden, and along the fiiores of
the Baltic ; and for the fame end, Grim
Jolmfon Thorkelyn, L.L.D. Profeflbr of
Antiquities of the Univerfity of Copenhagen,
and Keeper of the Privy Archives, is, at the
time of writing this, in England. This gen-
tleman, a native of Iceland, who was bred
to the profeflion of the law, has defervedly
gained the favour of his royal mailer ; and,
by the works which he has already publiihed,
an eftabliihed fame. It is to be hoped, that he
will give us a critical account of many of our
Englifli cuftoms, into which, in the courfe
of his tour, he has made very judicious en-
quiries. His account of the Daniiri inva-
fion of Northumberland is ready for being
printed : and he is, at prefent, engaged in
preparing for the prefs an Englifh tranfla-
tion of the Laws of the Republic of Ice-
land, with proper illuftrations, which will
undoubtedly afford much rational entertain-
ment to the antiquarian and the philofopher;
Z 4 and,

( 36 )

and, perhaps, fome ufeful hints to legifla-
tors and ftatefmen.

Of the Danifh and Norwegian remains
jn the antient kingdom of Northumberland,
we have a very flriking inftance, in the ex-
traordinary care and attachment of the
Northumbrians and Yorkfhiremen to their
horfes. The Norwegians and Icelanders treat
their horfes not only with the utmoft care,
but with a degree of affection. It was in
conformity to the genius of his countrymen,
that John Erifchen, an Icelandic gentleman,
wrote a Treatife de Philippia Veterum> *
printed at Copenhagen, 1757.

The following are examples of words, the
fame in the Norwegian and Icelandic lan-
guage -, and in that of the low countries
in Scotland, and the northern counties in

A gaify a foot path, or road,

An ark, a large chefl.

Aud> old.

A bairn,

* The love of the antients for their horfes.

A bairn, a child.

Beefing with child/, e. gravid.

Blake, yellow, pale.

Capel) a horfe, a working horfe.

Elden, fuel for fire.

To elt, to knead.

To feat, to hide.

A frith, an eftuary or arm of the fea.

Fremd or J remit , far off, ftrange, or not

near a-kin.

To frifl, to truft for a time.
To gang, to walk.
To garre, to make.
A garth, a yard.
A gilder, a fnare.
A gimmer, a ewe lamb.
To graV or ^r^/, to cry. '
A baujl, or hoft, a dry cough.
To lake, to play.
Z/rfW, urine.
Lat, (low, lazy.
To lear, to learn.
A />cr, a fack, or bag.

A quie, a heifer.


( 362 )

To ram, to reach.

Kfarky a fhirt.

Saur dirt, enjaur pool, a (linking puddle,

To fparre, or fpeir, or Jpurre, to alk,


Stark, ftiif, ftrong.
To thirl, to drill, to bore a hole.
Walling, boiling.
Wang, the fide.

From hiftory, as well as from fimilarityof
features, cuiloms, and language, it is evident
that the northern inhabitants of England,
and of the lowland Scots, were originally
the fame people ; being both defcended from
the nations on the fhores of the Baltic ; but
chiefly from the Danes and the Norwegians :
and the circumftance of their living now
under the fame government, cannot fail to re-
ilore their union, and to render it every day
more and more complete.

It appears that, in former times, much
emulation and great animofities prevailed be-
tween the people of England living on the


( 363 )

fouth fide of the river Trent, and thofe liv-
ing on the north.* The famous Roger Af-
chem, who was preceptor to Queen Eliza-
beth, and was a North-Trentian, conde-
fcended to wiite a book to vindicate the
dignity of the northern counties in England
from the abufe of their foutiiern neighbours.
We are fomewhat at a lofs, at this day,
to account for the difputes, and even the
hoftilities, that prevailed a few centuries
ago, between the people on this fide and
beyond Trent. The time will come, when
we will in like manner wonder at the ani-
mofities that frill take place, in ibme de-
gree, among the vulgar, on this fide and
beyond the Tweed.

That the people of England and Scotland
may be (till more effectually united, I would
propofe, that in all the fheriffs courts in
Great Britain, trials Ihould be determined


* It is to the divided ftate of the country, in former times,
that we are to trace the practice of appointing certain officers
on this fide and beyond Trent.

by juries : and that the Bifhop of Durham
fhould be the Diocefan of all the qualified
Epifcopalians in Scotland. It were alfo to
be wifhed, that the Royal Burghs were re- ^
ftored to their original freedom of conftitu-
tion, by which the inhabitants enjoyed, as
they ought, the right of chufmg their own
magistrates, and demanding an account of
the common revenue or eftate. A Commit-
tee has been appointed by a great number of
the Royal Burghs, for the purpofe of urging
their juft claims at the tribunal of the na-
tion, and the bar of the public, where there
Is not a doubt, if they proceed with the
fame temper, prudence, and perfeverance
which have hitherto marked their conduct,
but they will meet with fuccefs. Farther
{till, it were to be wiihed, though not yet
to be expected, that the right of voting in
the election of reprefentatives in parliament
were extended, as in England, to all who
poflefs freeholds of forty fhillings annual


( 365 )

rent. I fay not yet to be expected, becaufe,
it is not improbable, that this may one day
be effected by the progreflive and mutual
influence of induftry, wealth, and a fpirit of
liberty, which may break entails, fplit arif-
tocratical domains into a thoufand pieces,
and aflat the rights of freemen. If this
fhall not be the cafe, the political impor-
tance of the people of Scotland, inftead of
being increafed, muft be diminiflied j for
there is nothing human that is abfolutely fta-
tionary. But there is a fpirit in Scotland, at
the prefent moment, that prefages a bright-
er profpect, and which may repay to the
fifter kingdom, and that, perhaps, in a time
of need, the generous fire which was kin-
dled by her laws and examples.

At the fame time that the Anglo-Saxons
took pofleflion of England, and the Scots of
Caledonia, that is, the middle of the fifth
century, the Franks, eroding the Rhine, efta-
blifhed themfelves in France, the Burgun-
dians feized Burgundy, Savoy, and Dau-

phine ;

( 366 )

phine ; the Goths, that divifion of Old Gaul
which was diflinguifhed by the name of
Aquitania ; the Hunni, the reft of Gaul,
Hungary, and other places j and the Van-
dals, Africa, Italy, and Rome itfelf. All
thefe nations poflefTed, at that time, fimilar
forms of government, and equal degrees
of freedom. But, it is in Great Britain
only, with the Low Countries, that any
lively vefliges of the freedom, introduced
by thofe barbarians, are now to be found.
France, the freed of all European countries,
maintained its civil liberties for a period of
eleven hundred years j but at laft funk into
flavery, the ufual fate of nations, towards
the end of the fifteenth century. Thefe
things naturally excite anxiety and alarm,
nd teach a lefTon of vigilance and cir-

If any of the foregoing obfervations may
be deemed in any degree ufeful or inftruc-
tive, it will be matter of great fatisfa61ion to
the Author, whofe principal intention, in


( 367 )

taking the liberty of publifliing them, is, to
induce men of learning and genius, of pro-
perty and patriotic fpirit, to vifit a part of
this iiland, which has hitherto been too
much neglected, and where there is an ample
field for improvement.

Expanded and cultivated minds may, by
ocular demonftration, be convinced of the
truth of this aflertion : and while they are
preferving health by exercife, and receiving
pleafure from the beautiful and romantic
fcenery which will daily be prefented to their
view, they may derive the firft of all gratifi-
cations, that of giving additional liability
to the united kingdom of Great Britain, by
promoting agriculture, encouraging its ma-
nufactories and fifneries, and, by emanci-
pating a great part of the inhabitants of
this ifland from floth and idlenefs, make
them active and ufeful members of fociety.



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Online LibraryWilliam ThomsonA tour in England and Scotland, in 1785 → online text (page 16 of 16)