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of eafe to the principal Church, to which belonged all
the Offerings that were made in the others. Accordingly
the Priefts at their return, put the Offerings they had re-
ceived into the Bifhop's hands, which ferved for the main-
tenance of the Biihops, and the Clergy that were about
him. The Priefts then at firft had no other Titles, but
that of belonging to a certain Diocefe : for thefe firft rural
Churches are not to be confidered as diftin£l Parifhes, but
as Chapels belonging to the Cathedral.

Thefe rural Churches were not at firft very numerous.
The reafon is, becaufe the Lords who had large Eftates,


were the only Perfons that founded tfiem, and generally
were contented with building one fingle Church for the
ufe of their VafTals. The number of Chriftians being ex-
ceedingly encreafed, it was become necefTary to provide
for the conftant refidence of a Prieft in each of thefe
Churches. But as the great Men, as well as the People,
did not care to have a new Prieft at every turn, the Bi
fhops were willing to continue the fame to them ; and from
this time, Parifhes may properly be faid to commence.
However, left the Priefts, thus fixed to one Cure, fhould
be unmindful of their dependance on the Cathedral, the
Bifhops refer ved in their own hands the Revenues and Ob-
lations thefe Churches were endowed with. . This gave
the Founders fome uneafinefs. They could not bear to
fee the Prieft, who did all the duty, have fo fmall a fhare
of their Donations. Wherefore, the zeal of erecting new
Churches beginning to cool, at a time when there was
moft need of them, the Biihops thought fit to yield a
little. To this purpofe, they compounded with thofe who Wharton'i
had a mind to build Churches, and were fatisfied with re- Dtfimtf
ferving to the Cathedral, a third or fourth part of the In- -f*
comes, with the right of Baptifm and Burial. This ob-
ftacle being removed, thefe private Oratories became very
numerous, almoft every great Man building one for the
conveniency of himfelf and Vaflals. Moreover, when
any Lord alienated part of his Eftate, the Purchafer feldoin
failed of erefting a Church in his new Purchafe. On the
other hand, the Bifhops being greatly enriched by the
Grants made to their Churches, built likewife Churches
on their Lands, as well for the conveniency of their Te-
nants, as to imitate the Nobles, among whom they them-
felves began to be ranked. By all thefe means the rural
Churches abounding every where, there was no neceffity
of fending Priefts from place to place, fince each Church,
as was before obferved, had one of its own. And thus by
degrees the Parochial Divifion was fettled. However, the
Bifhops were long in pofleffion of the Tithes and Oblati-
ons, till at length, in order to quicken more and more
the zeal of Chriftians, they removed this difficulty which
obftrurited the building and endowing of Churches. They
not only left to the Parochial Priefts the Revenues the
Founders were pleafed to affign, or at leaft, the much
greater part, but alfo granted them the power of admi-
niftring the Sacraments in their refpedfive Churches.
This is the rife and progrefs of the Parochial Divifion,
which was almoft quite fettled in the Reign of Edgar, or
perhaps of Canute the Great, Between that time and the
Reign of Edward the Confejfor, there were fome farther
Subdivifions; but, in all appearance, there were few new
Parifhes after the Norman Conque/I. At leaft, we find by Moraft.
feveral Charters of the latter Saxon Kings, that the Pa- An e ] - *«*'
rifhes of Cambridgejbire, Huntingtonjliirc and Lincolnfljire, la h %° y ~
were the fame as at prefent. Whence it may be prefumed
the Parifhes of the other Counties agreed with our modern
Divifion (2).

(1) Through the Lazinefs or Ignorance of the Monks, the only Writers in thofe Days, we have but few Hiftorians from Ajftr to the Neman Cov.yucjl.
Next to After was Ecbctwerd, who wrote in the .Reign of Edgar, and lived till I C90, though he did not continue his Chronicle fo far. He was (as he himfelf
fays) defcended of the Blood Royal. His Works conlift of four Books, which were publiiheJ by Sir //. Savil. Biflu'p Nicclfan fays, the whole is an imper-
fect Tianflation of the Saxon Annals. His Style is boifterous and ubfeure, and in fome Places hardly Scnfe; and therefore but of little ufe, unlefs in fettling
the Reigns and Deaths of fome of our Saxon Kings, who lived about his Time, concerning which the Copies of the Saxon Annals differ. From him to the
Conqueft we meet with no Hiftorians, except OJbtrn, who has wrote the Lives of St. Dunjlan and St. Al phage, which are published in the firft Volume ot
Angtia Sacra ; and the Author of a Treatife called Encomium Emma, btijig a ihort Account of the Times immediately preceding the Reign of Edward ibe

(i) As may be farther feen from Dooms-Day Book, where the Pari/hes are very near the fame as at this Day.





Government, Laws, Manners, Cufioms, and Language



H E Revolution that happened in
Europe, about the beginning of the
fifth Century, is one of the moft.
remarkable events in Hiftory. The
Roman Empire, which was almoft
of equal extent with the known
World, was then divided into two
Empires, one containing the eaftern,
the other the weftern Provinces.
The weftern Empire was fo harrafted by the continual
Invafions of the northern Nations, that lofing by degrees
all its Provinces, it was reduced to nothing, and the very
name of Emperor of the Weft vanifhed with that Em-
pire. This great Revolution quite altered the State of
Europe, by introducing new Inhabitants, who raifing new
Kingdoms upon the ruins of the Reman Empire, brought
at the fame time new Laws and Cuftoms into the con-
quered Countries. Spain was peopled with Colonies of
IVifigoths, Catti, Alani, and Suevi. Gallia was over-
whelm'd with a deluge of IVifigoths, Burgundians, and
Francs. Italy was fo expos'd to the fucceffive Invafions
of the Heruli, OJlrogoths, and Lombards, that the antient
Inhabitants, inftead of preferving the fuperiority of Num-
ber, made no figure at all. The Saxons, Suevi, and Ba-
varians, fpread themfelves over all Germany, and became
Mailers of that vaft tract of Land. In a word, Great-
Britain was fo over-run with Saxons, Angles, and Jutes,
that hardly could any remains of the antient Britons be
difcovered. It was very natural for thefc Conquerors to
eftablifh in their new erected Kingdoms their own Coun-
try Cuftoms. And therefore it may be advane'd for cer-
tain, that the Laws now in force, throughout the greateft
part of Europe, are derived from the Laws thefe antient
Conquerors brought with them from the North. This
might be eafdy proved with refpeifr. to all the Countries
concerned in this great Revolution. But at prefent I
5V Lawi of fhall confine my felf to England alone. By what I am
5w"/Lm" S°' n S t0 %■> whoever has any knowledge of the Eng-
ffeSaxoa* I'fo Conftitution, will eafily be convinced, that the Cuf-
toms now pra£lifed in that Kingdom", are, for the moft

part, the fame the Anglo-Saxons brought with them from
the northern Countries, and laftly from Germany.

In the fecond Book of this Hiftory we have feen how
the Saxons were no fooner arrived in Great-Britain, but
they formed a defign of fettling there, and at length fuc-
ceeded after a War of 150 years. This long War bred
fuch Enmity between them and the Britons, that there
is no probability the Saxons, who in the end proved victo-
rious, mould borrow from the vanquifhed the Form of
Government, eftablifhed in their Conquefts. If therefore
we would trace the Origin of the Laws and Cuftoms of the
Anglo-Saxons, we muft fearch for it in Germany and the
northern Countries, rather than among the antient Britons.
And indeed, fuch is the refemblance between the Laws of
the Saxons, Francs, Suevi, Lombards, and the other nor-
thern Nations, that it muft neceflarily be concluded, they
had all the fame origin, of an older date than the fepara-
tion of thefe People. This refemblance is ftill much
ftronger between the Laws of the Anglo-Saxons in Great-
Britain, and thofe of the Saxons in Germany, fince they
were both the fame Nation, part whereof fettled in Eng-
land. An Englijh Hiftorian, by comparing the Laws and Brany.
Cuftoms of the Germans with thofe of the Englijh, has
plainly fhown, the Englijh introduced into Great-Britain
the fame Laws that were in ufe in their own Country.
Nay, he affirms, that till the Norman conqueft, there
was not fo much as one Law in England, but what, in the
main, the Germans had the fame. 'Tis true, as the An-
glo-Saxons confifted of three feveral Nations, who had alfo
their feparate quarters in England, there might be fome
difference, upon that account, amongft the (even Kingdoms
of the Heptarchy. But this difference could not be very
great, fince the three Nations were united in Germany^
before their coming into England, and made but one and
the fame People under the general Name of Saxons. All
that can be inferred from hence, is, that the Laws efta-
blifhed by the Anglo-Saxons in England, were compofed of
thofe of the A:gles, Saxons, and Jutes. But to look for
the Origin of the Englijh Conftitution among the antient
Britons, would be without Foundation, though 'tis not


4 8


Vol. I.

>j%i Title of
Kins, among
the Saxons.

impoflible but their forms of Government might in fume
refpeds l>e alike. The Laws and Quftoms therefore, in-
troduced into Great-Britain by the Anglo-SaxonSi are to be
ojjifidered, as compofed ot the Laws their Anceltors
brought into Germany, and of thofe they found among
the antient Germans. And indeed, what Tacitus fays of
the German Cuftoms, coricfpond^ fo exactly with fe\ :ral
of the Saxon ones, that it can hardly be doubted that the
Saxons borrowed many things from the Germain, unlefs
we fhouU chufe to fay, the cuftoms of both Nations flow-
ed from the fame Fountain. But to trace back thefe mat-
ters to their firft original, would be a work of infinite La-
bour. It fuffiees to'givc a general Idea of them. And
therefore, without cam ing this inquiry any further, let us
be fitisfied with feeing what was the form of Govermcnt,
eltablifhed by thofe Conquerors in England. '

The Saxons had no Kings in German^;- when they fent
their firft Troops to the aihttance of the Britons under the .
conducl of Hengll (i.) Their Territories were divided
into twelve Provinces^ over each of which a Head or Go-
vernor was appointed by the Affembly-General of the Na-
tion, wherein the fupreme Power was lodged. This Af-
fembly was called Wittena-Gemot, that is to fay, the Af-
J'emLly of the I Fife- Men {i) ; and alio, the Mycel-Synod,
that is, the Great Ajfembfy.

Befides the Governors of the

Pio\ inces, there were others alio fet over the Cities and
Boroughs. In time of war, the Aflembly elected a Ge-
neral to command the Army, and to be the Chief or Head
of the Commonwealth (3). Doubtlefs this General had
great Prerogatives ; but we are ignorant of their number
and extent. It even appears, by the perpetual contefts in
England, between the Princes inverted with this higli dig-
nity and the other Kings, that thefe Prerogatives had no
fixed and fettled Bounds.

Though the Title of King was not in ufe among the
Saxons, it was however afltimed by Hengiji as foon as he
was in pofleflion of Kent. Indeed, it would have been
difficult for him to have found any ether fo proper to ex-
prefs his Sovereignty over that Province. 'Tis true, the
titles of Duke and Earl, or, their equivalents Heretogh
and Ealdorman, were not then unknown. But they were
not yet tried to fignify Sovereigns. 'Twas not till long af-
ter, that certain Dukes and Earls being inverted with So-
vereign power, thefe titles were made ufe of to denote the
The firm of fupreme Authority. The other Saxon Leaders, who fet-
C /"h"""L l ' ec * m Great-Britain after Hengiji, followed his example,
in afluming the title of King. Thus, whereas in Germa-
ny, the Saxon Territories were divided into twelve Govern-
ments, their conquefts in England were parted into feven
Kingdoms ; but with this difference, that in Germany,
each Governor depended on the AlFembly-General of the
Nation, whereas in England, each King was Sovereign in
his petty Kingdom. However this did not exempt him
from all dependance on the IVittena-Gemot of his own
State, which in conjunction with him regulated all impor-
tant Affairs. Moreover, by mutual confent, there was
eifablifhed a General Affembly of the whole feven King-
doms, where matters relating to all in common were fet-
tled. Hence this form of Government, which confidered
the feven Kingdoms as united in one Body, was called
the Heptarchy, that is, the Government of feven.

eftablijb'd by

the Saxons
.'fl England.

Thefe firft Kings having fcarcc any other Subjects hut A Wittena.-
their own Countrymen, durft not think of afluming a J^kJJ
defpotick Power. Perhaps they had never anv furh dm.
thoughts, having been accuftomed to the contrary in their
own Country. They eftablifhed therefore, or rather
continued, each in his own Kingdom, a If iitena-Gemct,
where the fame affairs were determined, as were wont
to be in the like Affemblies in Germany. As for what
concerned the common Intereft of the feven Kingdoms,
it was debated in a General Affembly of the Kings and
great Men of the Heptarchy. 'Tis net precifelv known
what were the Rights and Privileges of the Genera! Wit-
tena-Gemot. Probably, they were much the fame the
States- General of the United Provinces enjoy at this day.
Each King was Sovereign, but executed the determinati-
ons agreed upon in common, to which he had given his
content, cither in Perfon or by Proxy. Be this as it
will, the common opinion is, that there was a Jfittena-r
Gemot for each Kingdom in particular, and a Geneial one
for all the feven (4).

Upon this fuppofition it is eafy to define the nature of The Nature
the Anglo-Saxons Government. 'Twas Monarchical, as each "f' 1 ' Sa * ca
Kingdom had its King; but then it was alfo Ariftccrati-
cal, as the King had not the power of making Laws with-
out the confent of the Affembly General, confifting of the
chief Lords of the Nation. Several believe too, it was
partly Democratica], and that the People fent their Re-
prefentatives to the Wittena-Gemot, as they now do to the
Parliament. This opinion fliall be fully examined hereaf-
ter. Mean time, it will be neceffary to take a view firft Ibtfeveral
of the feveral ranks and degrees of Men among the Anglo- q^JJ" ""/
Saxons, fince otherwifc there is no having a diftindt Know- Mm among
ledge of the nature of their Government. ,ht Anglo-

I fhall fay nothing here of the King, hecaufe I fhall ?£%
have occalion elfewhere to fpeak of his Power and Prero-

The Queen was the fecond Perfon in the State ; tho' Tie Stuttn.
only with regard to the refpect that was paid her, for fhe
had no fhare in the Government. If fometimes the
Queens fign'd the Charters with the Kings, it was not
becaufe it was neceffary, but on account of their Rank.
During the whole time of the Saxm Government, we
find but one Queen invefted with the Sovereignty ; I
mean, Sexktrga, Queen of JVejfex. However fome Hif-
torians afiure us, fhe was depos'd by the We/1-Saxo/is
purely becaufe fhe was a Woman. Nay, we have feen
that on occafion of Brithric's death, Egbert's immediate
Predeceffor, the IFcJl-Saxons depriv'd their Queens of the
Prerogatives they had till then enjoy'd. The Title of R"*<" ri "J 1
Queen, which was, andftillis, given to the King's Wife, a uec „°'
means no more, originally, than a Companion, in Latin,
Comes. In procefs of Time, this Term was made ufe
of to denote more particularly thofe who were neareft the
King's Perfon ; from whence it came to have a more ge-
neral lignification, and to mean the great Lords. Thus
we find in the old French Romances, and Poets, Li Settee*
de Flandre, Li Queen de Lcicejler, inftead of, the Earls of
Flanders and Lcicefler. The word Queen then was com-
mon to Men and Women, juft as Comes in Latin. At
length, the Term Count or Earl being fubftituted in its
room, when applied to Men, Queen was appropriated to

orrowed from the Latin, a Language thefe Inva-

(i) It is obfervable, that in France, Spain and Italy, they have no Word that fignifies King, but what i
devs were Strangers to, when they fettled in their Conquefts.

(a) In like Mannerour Parliament is fometimes ftiled, The Wifdom of the Nation.

(3) This General was chofen out of the Twelve Governors.

(4) In order to have a clear Notion of the Gctbick Model of Government eftabliihcd in the feveral Kngdoms of Europe, it will be neceflary to con-
fider the Nature of their Armies that were fent out in queft of new Habitations. As their whole Nation was divided, like the Israelite s, into fo ma-
ny diftinct Tribes with each its own Judges, without any common Superior, unlcfs in time of War, like the Roman Dictator : So in like manner the
Armies or Colonies, fent out, upon their Countries being ovcrftocked with Inhabitant;, were not Armies of Hirelings, who conquered for the Benefit of
their Pavmafrers, but voluntary Societies or Partners in the Expedition, confiding of fo many -diitinct Armies, out of every Tribe, conducted each by
their own Leaders, and unifcd" under one common General or Superior chofen by confent, who was a!fo Header Captain of his own Tribe. This then
being the Nature of the confederate Armv, it is evident that upon their conquering a Country, the Property of the Land was in the whole C-lleeJiite
Bodv, and that every Individual had a Right to ihare in what he had helped to conquer. Accoidinijly to rix this undetermined Right, the conquered
Country was divided into as many Shares (called afterwards Shires, Counties, &c.) as the General or King had Companions, or as the Army was com.
pofed of Tribes, that each Tribe, as they had lived together in their own Country, might do the fame in theit new Settlement. After this general Di-
vifion, the Lands were portioned out among the Leaders and Officers, who fubdivided them among their Followers. Thefe Allotments, whilir annual,
or for life, were called in Latin, Benefcia (a Word appropriated fince to Church Preferments J and afterwards Feoda, that is, a Gift of Pofj'ejftons ;
from the Teutonic!!, Fee a Gift, and Od a Pofleflion; in our Language they are Itill called Fees. As it was neceflary upon (heir fettling in a newly
filbdued Country, to continue their General, he may be confidered in two refpeits ; firft, as Lord of a private Diflrict divided among his own particular
Followers, and'as Lord or Head of the great Seigniory of the Kingdom. Thus we may frame an Idea of the Nature of the Governments fettled in Eu-
rpeby the Northern Nations. Over each Diftrict or Country prefided an Ealdorman or Earl, who with an Aflembly of the Landholders or Vajfals,
(fo called from Gefell, the Name they went by in their own Country) rcsulated all Affairs relating to the Country. And over the great Seigniory of the
Kingdom prefided the General or King, who with a general Amenably of the rVites or Vaffals of the Crown, regulated the Affairs rclnting to the
whole Community. How this was done in England, and who were the'Members of the C.untry-Courts or A£'en.blies, as well as of the Great Court «f
the Kingdom, will be (liown under the next Head of the Courts of Jujlice. From what has been faid, many ufeful Remarks may be made. Hence we
fee the Origin of the Principalities, Dukedoms, Counties, and the like, that the feveral European Kingdoms are divided into. From hence we may alfo
obferve that the Property or dmltum Dominium of the Land was in the Collective Body or the Publick, and that the Tenants in Fee were only inverted
with the Dominium utile ; and therefore that the Great Lords held their Seignoiies of the Publick or Kingdom, and not of the King. Thus the German
Princes hold of the Empire, not of the Emperor ; aod this is the Reafon of the Engiijh Lords being called Peers of the Halm, though they are now
commonly thought to have held of the Kine. After the Fits from being annual hecame'Eltatc* of Mtritame, many Differences arofe between the two Su-
periors and the Vaflals, and between the Vaflals themfelves, upon which their reciprocal Rights and Duties were inquired into and fettled. The Rules collected
fromfuch Dccifions by Degrees, were termed the F eitdal Law, and prevailed o\\: Europe (or many Ages. This Law is diftinguihVd by Birtiop Nic./I.n inio
thefe Periods ; its Birth from the Irruption of the Northern Nations to 650 ; its Infancy, from thence to Sec ; its Youth, from thence to 10^7 ; Andizftly,
its State of Perfection foon after that Time. The Princes of Eur'pe and their People being linked together by Feudal Tenures (which if duly conli-
cfcred will effectually (how the true Nature of the Royal Po-mcr, and the Mcafures of the Peoples Obedience) remained for a long Time in a happy State,
there having been no Prince in Europe that ever imagined he had a Title to arbitrary Power, till the Civil Lain, which had been buried in oblivion for fome
Time 3t'ter the fettling of the Northern Nations in the weftern Empire, was brought to Light. Then fome Princes made Lex Regia a handle to aflume a defpti-
«ick Power, and introduced the Civil Lata purely upon that Account into their Kingdoms. This was unfnccefsfully attempted in England ; but it prevails in
other Parts of Europe, even in Spain it ielf, where the Reading it purely for this Caufe, was onceforbid on Pain ol Qeath. Sec St. Anr.t. a . f,j/.;y on tie Lcgi.
Jlatl-ve Power of England, p. 46.


A Diflertation on the Government of the Anglo-Saxons.


de Reg.
I. I. 03.


the Women only. Afterwards coming to have a more
reftrain'd fignification, it was ufed only to denote the
Companion of the King, or the Queen. But it muft
be obferved, this appellation is common to all Queens,
whether they hold their Dignity of their Husbands, or of
their own Right.
Tb< Prim:. The King's Sons and the Princes of the Royal Family
Remark™ held the third rank. They were diftinguifhed by the Ti-
tii 'j ule: o/tle of Cfyto, taken from a Greek word, fignifying, llluj-
civto. trims. 'Tis fomething difficult to know the rsafon wliy
iliofHo- tnc Saxon Princes affected a Greek Title. One would be
nour. apt to think the word Clyto came from fome old Saxon

M.lmft. termj j f Edgar's Title of Totius Anglies Bafileus ( i ), were
not a demonstration that they had a view to the Greek.
As this Title was peculiar to the Princes, the word Clyto
alone came by degrees to denote a Prince of the Royal
Blood. Accordingly nothing is more common with the
antient Eug/iJJj Hiftoriana than to ufe the Terms C/ytones,
Clytonculi, for the King's Sons. In procefs of time, the
Saxon Term Atheling, from Athel, that is, Noble, was
fubftituted in its place. As for the termination Ing, it
denotes the extraction or de'fcent, as Mahmbttry informs us.
'The Sons of the Kings of England, fays he, were wont to
ajfume Names which Jhcw'd their Extraelion. Thus, the
Son of Edgar named himflfF.dga.ring, the Son of Edmund,
Edmunding, and fo of the others. But they had all one com-
mon Title, namely, that of Atheling. As the French, which
fettled in Gaul, came from Germany, probably the termi-
nation lug, in the words, Merovingians, and Carlovin-
gians, that is, the defcendants of Merovcus and Charles,
is derived from the fame original.

Next to the Princes, the firft degree of the Nobility
was that of Ealdorman (2). This word, which in its
primary Signification means only an aged Man, came by
degrees to ftand for Perfons of the greateft Diftinclion ;
apparently becaufe fuch were chofen to difcharge the high-
ell: Offices, whofe long experience had rendered them moft
capable. 'Tis not only among the Saxons that this word
is ufed in thefe two different Senfes. We find in Scrip-
ture, that the Elders of Ifracl, of Moab, and of Midian
were taken for the chief Men of their refpeftive Nations.
The word, Senator, Senor, Signor, Seigneur, in Latin,
SpaniJI), Italian and French, fignify the fame thing. The
Ealdormen therefore in England were the moft confidera-
ble of the Nobility, difcharged the higheft Offices, and
confequently had the largeft Eftates. As they were gene-
rally intruded with the Government of the Counties, in-
ftead of faying the Governor, it was faid, the Ealdorman,
of fuch a County. Hence by degrees this word came to

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