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his kingdom was more friendly to the power of whose
protection it stood in need, and was less impatient of fiscal
exaction than the landed interest with the jealous baron-
age at its head. Here again we see the all-pervading
policy of taking the great interests into the hands of
the central government. Protection very liberal for the
age is extended to the foreign merchant. The clause
giving to creditors a lien on the debtor's land as well
as on his personalty, bespeaks the growing strength of
the commercial interest, and shows that the character
of land-ownership was becoming less feudal and more
commercial.

The process of development by which the judicial was
separated from the legislative and administrative power
was now nearly complete, though the king remained con-
stitutionally supreme judge as well as ruler, justice
being administered in his name and in his conventional
presence, as indeed it is in the present day. The three
courts of king's bench, common pleas, and exchequer, the
first for causes between the crown and the subject, the
second for causes between subject and subject, the third
for fiscal causes, exist as they continued to exist till yester-
day. All the three courts administer the common law,
that is, the customs of the realm as modified by statute,
the custom being in the breast of the judge. In the king
personally is still left a general power of grace and of
equitable intervention. This is exercised through the
chancellor, who is said to keep the king's conscience.



184 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

The chancellor's office had originally been that of royal
secretary of all departments, that of the household as
well as those of home and foreign affairs, conducting
the king's correspondence and keeping the king's seal.
It now becomes that of a supreme judge in equity, and
when it has taken complete form as the court of chancery,
will supply the shortcomings, enlarge the narrowness, and
temper the rigidity of the common law. The chancellor
still retains his function as secretary of state, and is
in effect chief minister from this time, while the grand
justiciar disappears. He is an ecclesiastic, and his
authority adds to the influence of his order. The Chief
Justice of England, with his golden chain, has preserved
something of the justiciar. The title of barons of the
exchequer recalled the time when the court was a com-
mittee of the Curia Regis dealing with finance.

Disorder still called for repression when Edward came to
the throne. More than once he had to show his vigour in
restraining nobles from private war. A marauder fired
and pillaged Boston when it was holding one of those fairs
which were the life of the home trade in the England of that
day. The roads were infested by robbers who lurked in
the adjoining woods. That the merchant might carry his
goods safely from fair to fair it was ordained that the sides
of the road should be cleared. A commission of Trailbas-
1305 ton was directed against violence in general, and local
guardianship of the peace was made more efficient by an
improvement of the system of watch and ward, and by
an advance towards the establishment of justices of the
peace. The system of mutual responsibility or frank
pledge, a rude expedient of primitive times, is practically
numbered with the past. Always in judging a king's



VIII EDWARD I 185

policy we must bear in mind the rough and wild material
with which he had to deal.

Another reform, as it was deemed, in spite of its cruelty, 1290
by the king and by the people, was the banishment of the
Jews. The motive was partly religious, but it was mainly
hatred of Jewish extortion and of alien domination. The
Jews had not only practised grinding usury, but had been
getting the land into their grasp by mortgage in collu-
sion with greedy land-owners, who thus annexed the hold-
ings of their weaker neighbours. From this Jews were
debarred by an ordinance restricting their tenure of land.
Some of them seem to have betaken themselves to clipping
the coin, for which offence a number suffered. Popular
feeling against them was enhanced by their ostentation of
wealth. They had been admonished to betake themselves
to less odious trades, but of course without effect. In
banishing them the king sacrificed a rich though hateful
source of revenue. At their departure the wrath of the
people broke forth cruelly against the hapless race, but it
was repressed by the king. That the Jewish money-
lenders and financiers took away with them the commer-
cial prosperity of the kingdom is shown by the subsequent
history to be untrue. In maritime enterprise the Jews
could bear no part, except as they might furnish funds.
Churches, abbeys, colleges, and other public edifices, for
which they are alleged alone to have provided the capital,
continued to be built after their departure. That the
Italian financier came in place of the HebrcAv and reaped
a measure of the same hatred is true ; but he did not
threaten England with the perpetual ascendancy of an
alien and unassociable race. The nation showed its grati-
tude by a liberal grant.



186 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

With a policy always tending to the dethronement of
feudalism and the installation of a national monarchy,
Edward could not fail to arouse the opposition of the
feudal magnates. At last they had him at a disadvan -
tage, and were able to combine the show at least of
regard for public right and patriotism with the interest
of their class. He had always been in financial straits,
having inherited an empty treasury, and being involved
in costly wars. Yet in the first eighteen years of his
reign he had only four times come upon his people for
extraordinary grants. But the double expenditure of
a war in Scotland and a war on the continent for the
defence of Gascony against Philip of France reduced him
to the extremity of need, and drove him to desperate
courses. He tallaged the domains of the crown, for
doing which, it seems, he had the letter of legal right ;
he laid his hands upon the stores of wool, hides, and
other merchandise ; he seized the treasures of the cathe-
drals and monasteries ; he wrung contributions from the
clergy. An opposition which nearly took the form of
armed rebellion arose. At its head were the two chiefs
of the feudal nobility, Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk and
Earl Marshal, and Humphrey De Bohun, Earl of Here-
ford and High Constable. They had a confederate in
Archbishop Winchelsey, who was lighting for the immu-
nities of his order. Bigod and Bohun figure in Whig
histories as patriots, and as objects of constitutional
gratitude. Both of them had personal grudges, Bohun
having been fined and imprisoned, Bigod having been
put down in attempting to levy private war. Their
patriotism is somewhat doubtful, but in resisting arbitrary
taxation they had right upon their side. The first con-



VIII EDWARD I 187

flict arose from the refusal of the Constable and Marshal
to serve abroad without the king. " By God, Sir Earl ! " 1297
said the king to the Earl Marshal, at the end of the
altercation, "you shall either go or hang." "By the
same oath. Sir King, T will neither go nor hang," was
the Marshal's reply. The field of quarrel widening, the
earls raised a body of horse and forcibly stopped the
seizure of wool and hides. Popular feeling began to
show itself on their side. The king addressed a touch-
ing speech to the people outside the hall at Westminster,
telling them that for their sakes 'he was going to meet
danger, promising them, if he returned, to make amends
to them for all, and bidding them, if he fell, take his son
as king. The heart of the people responded to the
appeal. But when the king had embarked for Flanders,
and his dreaded presence was withdrawn, the two earls
and the archbishop, with their party, renewed their pres-
sure and forced the regency to give way. The king was 1^97
constrained to grant a confirmation of the Great Charter,
with an extension renouncing tallage, prise of merchan-
dise, and arbitrary taxation of every kind. This memo-
rable enactment, commonly known as the statute JDe
Tallagio non Ooncedendo, in principle completed the
groundwork of the constitution. To it was appended a
provision for a new perambulation of the forests, forest
encroachments being still a standing grievance. Edward
was passionately fond of hunting, but he seems also to
have felt that the flower of his prerogative was touched.
He fenced with the demand, and when he at last frankly
consented, he sought a dispensation of the pope. This
act, at variance with the motto of his life, was Edward's
fall, and is to be palliated only by the general error of



188 THE UNITED KINGDOM ^ chap.

his age, which believed that conscience could be bound
and loosed by popes. He did not act on the dispensa-
tion. The opposition would have gone further. They
wanted to take from the king the appointment of the
officers of state. Edward replied that complaints against
any of his officers should be heard, but that if he gave up
the appointments he would no more be king. Through-
out the controversy he showed his sense of the true
foundation of his power by throwing himself on the
affection of his people.

Luckily for the king, there was a split between the
lay opposition headed by the earls, and the clerical op-
position headed by Archbishop Winchelsey, a politician
whose strategy seems to have verged on treason ; for
there can be little doubt that the papal missive forbid-
ding Edward to make war on the Scotch, of which the
archbishop was the officious bearer, had its origin in his
own brain. To the missive he added words of ghostly
counsel, telling the king how safe were the dwellers in
Jerusalem, and how they who trusted in God were as
Mount Sion. " By God's blood," thundered the pious
monarch, " I will not hold my tongue for Sion, nor keep
silent for Jerusalem ; but my right, which is known to
all men, I will with my whole might defend ! " On a
question of national independence the baronage was with
the king, and a ringing protest against interference was
the answer to the pope. Edward seems to have sus-
pected that the plots of the archbishop had been deeper
still. He openly upbraided him with his treason, telling
him that there were proofs of it under his own hand, and
that he might go, but should never return. The arch-
bishop went, and during Edward's life he did not return.



VIII EDWARD I 189

To promote, by all fair means, the union of the
island as the only sure guarantee for its internal peace
and external security was a policy which, after long and
dire experience of its opposite, received in the case of
England and Scotland a glorious ratification in 1707.
Edward pursued it with law and right clearly on his
side in the case of Wales ; with law and right less clearly
on his side in the case of Scotland ; yet in his own way
and with an object widely different from those of the
conquerors whose selfish and unscrupulous ambition has
been the curse of mankind. He has been accused, per-
haps with justice, in this and other cases, of being ex-
treme in insisting on the letter of his legal right. If he
was, he erred with an age of feudal and papal reasoning ;
but it remains to be shown that in his British policy he
was not justified in believing that he had at least, besides
the letter of the law, the true interest of the whole island
on his side.

From Cheshire, made by the Conqueror a palatinate
that its earl might have force to curb the Welsh, and
from the southwestern counties, Norman conquest, the
way being opened for it by the clan feuds of Welsh chief-
tains, had pushed on into Wales, occupied the lowlands,
and made of them Marches, petty feudal principalities of
which the Marcher was the feudal lord. In Pembroke-
shire, Henry I. had planted as an outpost a colony of
Flemings. The mountain region, with the island of
Anglesey in its rear, had nominally submitted to the
kings of England, and its native princes owed them
fealty. But it remained the home and fastness of the
Celt, with the Celtic language to which he still clings,
with his native prince, with his clannish instincts, with



190 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

the lawlessness tempered by custom which he called the
laws of Howell the Good, with his fantastic legends, with
his fond memories stretching back through ages of depres-
sion and isolation to the time when all Britain was Celtic
and to the fabled glories of Arthur, with his love of the
bard and the harp, with the plaintive poetry of an emo-
tional, imaginative, and vanquished race. Never did the
Welsh mountaineer lose a chance of fomenting English
troubles or of backing English rebellion. Under John
and under Henry III. we saw him active on the insurgent
side. In this way he had preserved a relic of marauding
independence. He had played his usual part in the civil
commotions of the last reign. As there was nothing for
it but to give the marchers a free hand, in the marches
also disorder reigned. This state of things could not
be borne. A conqueror, even the least unscrupulous,
would have laid a strong hand on Wales ; a pretext the
Welsh forays would soon have afforded him, and he
would have been absolved by history. Edward was not
a conqueror, he was a strict respecter of law, though he
might sometimes read law narrowly and sometimes in the
light of policy. In the case of Wales he had the law
clearly on his side. Llewelyn, the Welsh prince, owing
fealty and not denying that he owed it, made default,
was contumacious, and put himself in an attitude of
1277 rebellion. Edward, with the concurrence of the English
estates, led an army against him. Llewelyn deemed
himself unassailable in his mountains, where the mailed
cavalry was ineffective and had more than once met with
disaster. But Edw^ard, acting on the principle that the
valleys command the hills, girdled the insurgent region
with castles and turned invasion into investment, while



vin EDWARD I 191

the Cinque Port fleet took Anglesey. Llewelyn sur- 1277
rendered, ceded a part of his territory, in the possession
of a greater part of it was confirmed on condition of
a payment which was afterwards remitted and of send-
ing hostages who were afterwards returned. His brother
David, who, meaning probably to supplant him, had
taken the English side, was rewarded with lands and
castles, knighthood, and Earl Derby's daughter as a
wife. Llewelyn did homage, spent Christmas with the
king, and received the hand of Edward's cousin, Eleanor
De Montfort. Hopeless now of supplanting his brother,
David urged him to revolt. The pair broke into sudden
rebellion against Edward, slew his people, surprised his
castles, and carried away his governor. War began anew 1282
and it was arduous and costly. But Llewelyn was slain
in a chance affray, and his head was brought to Edward.
David, a double traitor, was given up by the Welsh, and,
after solemn trial in the presence of a parliament, died
a traitor's death. Wales was subdued. Its two-fold 1284
palladium, Arthur's crown and the piece of the true cross,
came into the victor's hands. But the mountain tribe,
whether in Wales or in Afghanistan, does not easily
resign its lawless freedom. Renewed risings called on
Edward for fresh efforts. Additions were made to the
girdle of castles, some of which still in their ruins attest
the grandeur and generalship of their founder. A set of
rules was framed for the government of the principality
introducing the criminal law and some parts of the
administrative machinery of England. Whatever seemed
tolerable in the Welsh customs, Edward, with true states-
manship, determined to preserve. That he extirpated
the bards, as Hume said and Gray sang, is a romantic



192 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

fiction; their minstrelsy abounds after this time. A
Round Table, held at Carnarvon with high state and
a large concourse, celebrated that which, however we
may feel for conquered races, must be deemed a triumph
of peace, order, and civilization. To win the people to
industry, mining was encouraged. Wales, however,
though annexed and partly assimilated, was not at this
time nor till long afterwards fully incorporated with
England. It did not send members to the English par-
liament. The mountain region retained its political
seclusion. The Welsh language lived, and with it some-
thing of a separate nationality, as was seen a century
1400- later in the insurrection of Owen Glendower, as is seen
^^^^ in the separatist tendencies of Wales, civil and religious,
even at the present day.

In the case of Wales Edward had succeeded. In the
case of Scotland fortune was adverse ; yet he did not
fail, but was prevented by death from completing his
work, which was wrecked by the weakness of his suc-
cessor. It was a great calamity to him, and, perhaps,
to those with whom he had to deal, and to whom his
temper was important, that in this critical hour, when
the hardest trials of his life lay before him, he lost his
wife. " I loved her living, and I love her dead," he
said, as he ordained perpetual masses, little needed, for
1290 her soul. From Lincoln, near which she died, he bore
her corpse to Westminster, and at each place where it
rested, a cross, the work of medieval art in the zenith
of its beauty, rose to mark the path along which the great
king, turning from his course of war and statesman-
ship, followed the bier of love. If there is a character
in history answering to Tennyson's King Arthur, it



VIII EDWARD I 193

is that of Edward I., while his Eleanor was no
Guinevere.

Scotland was not a united kingdom. The people of
the Lowlands were English, more purely English than
the people of England itself, and had been severed from
their stock only by the accident of the Norman Conquest.
Normans had come among them, not as conquerors, but
as adventurers ; had gained ascendancy at the Scottish
court and over the country ; had introduced their cus-
toms, and had turned Lowland Scotland into a rough
counterpart of feudal England. The Norman nobilities
of the two countries were in fact one. Bruce, Baliol,
and Comyn held English as well as Scottish fiefs. Sev-
eral Scotch lords, among them Baliol and Bruce, were
with Henry IIL at Lewes. A Bruce and a Baliol had
fought for England against Scotland in the battle of
the Standard. But the authority of the Lowland king
ended with the Grampians. Behind that rampart still
dwelt, in his Highland fastness, the Celt, with his own
language and customs ; with his group of clans, whose
separate unities the glens had preserved, owing no alle-
giance but to the clan chief ; thoroughly alien and hostile
to the Saxon, who had dispossessed him of the plain, and
upon whom he deemed it meritorious to raid. Beyond
the Highland clans, again, in the isles, were Norsemen,
alien alike to Celt and Saxon, with habits like those of
their ancestors maritime and largely piratical, under their
own laws or lawlessness. The Celtic Highlander and
the Islander might have as much right to the independence
for which they struggled against the Lowlander as the
Lowlander had to his own. To an anarchical and pre-
datory independence none of them could have a right.

VOL. I вАФ 13



194 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

Several times the Scotch had invaded England, and there
was always danger of their inroads.

Edward had heen sixteen years on the throne without
touching the affairs of Scotland. Alexander III., king
of Scotland, died, leaving as his heiress an infant, the
child of his daughter Margaret, by the king of Norway.

1290 Trouble at once arose among the turbulent baronage of
Scotland. Leading Scotchmen appealed for advice to
Edward, who was then in Gascony. He recommended
a regency, which was appointed, and he did not hasten
his return, or show any disposition to take advantage
of the confusion. His son Edward, like the heiress of

1290 Scotland, was a child. He proposed a marriage between
them, which would have amicably united the two king-
doms. The Scotch baronage assented, a treaty was
framed, and it is allowed by all that the terms were
fair and honourable to the weaker kingdom. But the

1290 little Maid of Norway, as she was called, died on her
passage to Scotland. Her death, like the arrow which
pierced the brain of Harold, or the fatal waft of mist
which crossed the battlefield of Liitzen, was one of those
incalculable accidents which, turning the whole course
of events, seem to make it impossible that history should

1290 become a science of prediction. Thirteen claimants to
the Scotch throne now started up, civil war impended,
and leading Scotchmen again called on Edward to inter-
vene and save Scotland from confusion. Edward con-
sented to intervene if he were recognized as over-lord
of Scotland. The question of the over-lordship is de-
bated among learned and impartial writers to this day.
William I., William II., and Henry II. had forced the
king of Scots to do them homage. But what Henry II.



VI II EDWARD I 195

had extorted, Richard I., to raise money for his crusade,
had sold back. The question was complicated by the
fealty which the kings. of Scotland owed for the fief held
by them as Earls of Huntingdon in England, and which
brought them as feudatories to the English court and camp.
In an uncritical age, at all events, Edward might believe
in the legality of a claim which he had allowed to remain
in suspense but had never waived ; and, if the law was
doubtful, or more than doubtful, the policy of union in
the interest of both countries was clear. Edward's claim
to the over-lordship, at any rate, was distinctly put for-
ward, and was recognized freely and with full delibera-
tion on the part of Scotland. As over-lord, and in no
other capacity, without any special instrument of sub-
mission to him as arbitrator, Edward heard and decided
the cause. It is not disputed that he heard it fairly, or 1292
that he was right in deciding in favour of Baliol, as the
representative of the elder line, against Bruce who was
nearer to the stock by one degree. Bruce and Baliol
alike were holders of fiefs in England, but Bruce, per-
haps, was the more English of the two. One of the
competitors had contended that the kingdom was parti-
ble like ordinary estates, and had Edward's design been
evil he would probably have decided that it was. Hav-
ing given judgment he set Baliol on his throne, delivered
the fortresses of the kingdom, which, pending the suit,
had been placed in his hands, to the new king, exhorted
him to govern well, and for four years left him to govern.
There is apparently no reason for supposing that he
meant to disturb anything in Scotland, or that he was
not satisfied with the settlement, which simply secured
peace by a feudal- bond between the two kingdoms. All



196 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

that he did was to receive appeals, which was the right
and duty of an over-lord, recognized by himself in his
relation, as the holder of French fiefs, to the king of
France, though he could not, as king of England, put
his person in his French enemy's hands. We have seen
what was the temper of a Norman nobility. It was
probably by their own spirit of restlessness and cabal,
rather than by any wound given to their national feel-
ing by what they must have known to be a common
incident of over-lordship, that the Scotch barons were
1295 led suddenly to rise against Baliol, practically depose
him, confiscate the estates of Englishmen in Scotland,
ally themselves with the king of France, then at war
with England, and without a declaration of war invade
Cumberland and ravage it, if local chroniclers can be
trusted, with the usual barbarity. Upon this Edward

1295 advanced and subdued Scotland. It was his right and
his duty so to do. Having made himself master of Scot-
land, he disturbed nothing, did harm to nobody any
more, but simply annexed the country on an equal foot-
ing to England. If there was cruel slaughter at the

1296 storming of Berwick it was not unprovoked, and such
were the savage habits of that age, and of ages long after
this, in the case of garrisons which, after summons, stood

1296 a storm. Baliol surrendered his kingdom as forfeited
by breach of fealty to the over-lord. In a parliament
at Berwick Edward received the homage of the clergy,
baronage, and gentry of Scotland. Thirty-five skins of
parchment were filled with their names and their prom-
ises of allegiance. If such submissions were invalid there
would be no end to war. Nor could supreme respect be
due to an independence which signed the Ragman's Roll.



Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 14 of 84)