M. (Paul) Rapin de Thoyras.

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Thanes and Ceorles were not Proprietors of Lands. From
whence they infer, it would have been of no ufe to the
Commons to have a place in thefe Alfemblies, whofe fole
Bufinefs was to regulate the Affairs of a Country which
properly belonged to the King and the Nobility. They
add, 'tis incredible that the Nobles of the firft rank, fhould
agree to make their VafTals their Companions : That fince
in the distribution of their Lands they were at liberty to
give them on what Conditions they pleafed, 'tis not at all
probable they fhould place the Tenants in the fame Rank
with the Lords. To render this opinion more probable,
they fay further, it is not to be imagined, that in thofe
days the People were upon the fame foot as at prefent ;
that although they were free, their Freedom was confin'd
within narrow bounds ; that the Superiority of the Nobles
over them was vaftly greater than at this day, and for
that reafon the People were little regarded : They ferved
in the Wars for foot Soldiers, who were looked upon as
Servants. Accordingly they had the name of Knechten
[that is Servants] given them.

To this the Aflcrtors of the Rights of the Commons re-
ply, That fince the Nobles, who held their Lands of the
King, had a right to a place in the IVittena-Gemot, the
Commons, who held their Lands of the Nobles, might
very well have the fame Privilege too. The reafon al-
ledged in the Objection not holding good againft the Lords,
ought not to be of more force againft the Commons.
They add, that the main Bufinefs of the general Council
was the making Laws as well for the People as for the
Nobility; the fettling the Rights of the Subjects ; the pre-
serving Peace in the State ; and the raifing Taxes, whereof
the People paid the largeft {hare. Hence they infer, it
was very natural, and extremely confonant to the Cuftom
ot the Saxons, that the People fhould give their confent to
all thofe things that concerned them no lcfs than the No-
bles. In a word, they fay, if the People aflifted not at
the Debates of the great Council, 'tis not to be conceived
whence fhould proceed the great care of fecuring their

P.r-.?-' Ml

Pn ft

(1) Camj,u\ Mjrtii, et MjJii vel Magi, Comitia public.!, feu generates Conventus quos folebant primi Frinconim Rcges quotannjs cirra anni prindpivm
It Martio rr.cnfe indiccrc, qui in patcnti campo et fub die. peragebantur, ex quo Camfi Mailii vulg" appellantur, a Scrijpcoribus. Greg. Turin. I- ;.
HiJI. Fran. c. 27-

(2) This is what happened in the Reign of King Jama I. this Prince having often given the CotnmoiB to lindrrftand, that h- thought it ;r. '&:-
Power to revoke their Privileges, which, in his Opinion, had no other Foundation than the Oanceffiohs of his Predetxflorj. tUfia

N? 8. Vol. I, Q_q g* 54 *

5 4


Vol. I.

as well to the Body of the Nobles as

Another Ar-
gument fir
the Co»

Anfwer a
gainfi lie

Treat Lords had a right to fit in the Uittena-Gemot, which Subjects in genera

no body ever cj nied. But I can't fay it neceffarily fol- of the People.

lows from what they alledge, that the Commons were ex- To come therefore to more direct Proofs, the favourers Anther Ar-

, id, which is the point in queftion. On the other of the Commons alledge other Paffages, where they pre- f^"^ w

hand, what is urtred on the other fide tends rather to fhow, tend the meaning of thefe Terms is fixed to the Repre-

fentatives of the People, by the Word Procurators. In a
Charter ( i ) dated 8 1 i , it is faid, Cenulph King of Mer-
cia affcmbled, for the Dedication of the Monajlery of Win-
chelcomb, the great Men of 'the Kingdom, the Bijliops, Pro-
curators, &c.

To this it is anfwered, That the dedication of a Church Anfwer.
and Monaftery was the only Bufmifs in hand, for which
purpofe Cenulph had affembled a multitude of People, and
particularly fuch as were diltinguillied by their Birth or
Offices. But fuppofing it to have been a real Wiltena-
Gemot, the Term, Procurators, is too undeterminate to
denote the Reprefentatives of the Commons, unlefs it be
joined with fome other Word that fixes its fignification.

To refute this Objection, a Charter is produced by the neplyfir the
other Side, where they maintain, The Term Procura- Common,
tores, muft be underftood of the Reprefentatives of the
People. This Charter, granted by King Atheljlan (z),

that the Reafons for the Exclusion of the Commons are
not fatisfactory, than to prove diredtly, they had a Place
in the Wittena-Gemot. Let us therefore proceed to
another fort of Arguments, alledg'd in favour of the

The firft is taken from Henry of Huntingdon the Hifto-
rian, who, fpeaking of the depoiing of Sigebert King of
// 'ejfex, exprelfes himfelf thus : King Sigebert growing in-
corrigible, the great Men and People of Weffex affembled
together in the beginning of the fecond Year of his Reign, and
depot? d him with unanimous Confent. In this Pallage it is
pretended, the People being put in oppofition to the
great Men, can mean only the Commons, and confequent-
ly they gave their Votes in the General Allembly.

This Explanation is fupported by a Pallage of another
Hiftorian, who fays: In the Reign of Edward the Elder,
were affembled the Bijhops, Abbots, the faithful Subjects or
Vaffals, the great Men and the People, in the Kingdom of concludes thus : Granted at the Royal Fill /Etwelope, in the

Weffex. It is maintained, that by the Fideles, or faithful
Subject:;, which may be explained by Vaffals or Liege-
Men, are to be underftood the People, as diftinct from
the Nobles, fince in this place the Fideles and the People
aie diflinguifhed from the great Men.

To thefe Authorities they add another from Ethel-
zvulph's Charter of Tythes, where it is faid, Thefe things
were granted by the King, Barons, and People.

Thefe Proofs are confirmed by two Charters ; the firft
whereof is King Ethelred's, in favour of the Abbey of
Wolverhampton, which concludes with thefe Words : Thefe
are the Decrees of Sigeric Archbijliop of Canterbury, in
tie Court held before King Ethelred, the Archbijhop of York,
the Bijhops, Abbots, Senators, the Chiefs and People of the
whole Country.

The other granted by Edivard the Confeffor to the Ab-
bot of JVeJiminfler, runs thus : I have ordered therefore this
Charter of my Donation to be read on the day of the Dedi-
cation of the faid Church, in ike prefence of the Bijlxps,
Abbots, Earls and great Men of England, and in the Sight
and Hearing of all the People.

But the Oppofers of the Commons pretend to invalidate
the force of all the Arguments drawn from Paffages of
Hiftorians and Charters feveral ways. In the firft place,
they obferve, the greateft part of thefe Hiftorians lived
when the Commons fat in Parliament, and therefore it is
no wonder when they fpeak of the Anglo-Saxon Affairs,
they fhould reprefent things as they were in their own
Times. In the fecond place, they fay, nothing can be
inferred from any Expreifions in thefe Charters, becaufe
they were not originally writ in Latin, but in Saxon.
Confequently, the Latin Quotations from thence are only
Tranflations, the faithfulnefs whereof cannot be judged
of, without confronting them with the Originals, which
it impoffible, feeing they are all loft. For inftance, it is
certain, the Saxons never made ufe of the term Baron,
which was brought in by the Normans, and yet we find
it in one of the above-mentioned Charters. In the third
place, they fay, fome of the Paffages alledged do but fhow
at moft, that the Refolutions of the IVittena-Gemot were
taken in the fight of the People, who perhaps expreffed
their fatisfa<Stion by Shouts and Acclamations. But they
maintain this to be no proof of the People's giving their
Votes, or that their Confent was necetlary, fince they
were prefent only as Witneffes. This manifeft ly appears,
fay the)', in the forementioned Charter of Ethelwulph,
which runs thus : There were prefent the Archbijliops and
Bijhops of England, Buthred King of Mercia, Edmund
King n/Taft-Anglia, and of Abbots, AbbcfJ'es, Dukes, Earls,
and great Men of the whole Kingdom, and other faithful
Suhjetts, a great .Multitude, who all approved of this royal
Ait, to which the dignified Perfons Jidfcribed their Names.
It is pretended, fince the great Men only figned the
Charter, their approbation alone was ncceffary. Bcfides,
what can he the meaning of a great Multitude f faithful
Subjects ? Wax it the whole Body of the People? This
they won't fay, who maintain that the Commons fat in
the Wittena-Gemot by tl eir Reprefentatives, as they do at
this day. And indeed, thisgreat Multitude cannot well be
applied to a very limited number of Reprefentatives, but
may very aptly be ufed to denf tc Crowds of People, got
together to make Acclamations. In fine, it is obferved,
that in all the forecited Paffages, a fore'd meaning is given
to the Term, Fideles, to make it fignify the Reprefenta-
tives of the Commons, fince that Word is applicable to all

Prefence of -the Bijhops, Abbots, Dukes, Earls, and Patriae

Procuratoribus. Now, fay they, who can thefe Patriee

Procurators be, but the Reprefentatives of the People ?

But they who are of the contrary Opinion, fay, this is TheAnjwer.

only a bare conjecture, which can be of no force, unlefs

this Ex predion be fhown to be common at that time.

Laftly, a Proof is alledged jn Favour of the Commons, rie laft Ar-
that feems to be ftronger than any of the former. It \%gume*tfor
faid, there are now feveral Hamlets (3), that fend Re- '*•«'»"»•"•
preventatives to Parliament, which Right muft have been
received in the time of the Saxon Kings, when they were
confiderable Cities or Burroughs. Indeed, it is very im-
probable this Privilege fhould be granted them after they
made fo defpicablea figure in the Kingdom.

To evade this Argument, it is replied, It cannot take IheAr.fwer.
place, unlefs it be proved that thefe Burroughs, now be-
come Hamlets, were gone to decay before the Conqueft.
They add, that even this would not be fufficient, be-
caufe very poiTibly they might have been rebuilt and de-
ftroyed again during the Civil Wars England was fo often
troubled with, after the Commons were in poiTeffion of
the right of fending Reprefentatives to Parliament.

To all thefe Arguments alledged in behalf of the Com-
mons, it is added as a favourable Precedent, that in all the
ether States in Europe, the People were fummoned to
the General AiTemblies. Though hitherto I have only
related the Reafons of both Parties, I can't help remarking
upon this laft, that it is groundlefsly alledged, without pre-
tending however thereby to weaken the reft. And this I
fhall plainly fhow, at leaft with regard to France, by the
Authority of three Writers, who are looked upon as
throughly vers'd in the cuftoms of that Kingdom.

The firft is Mezerai, who difcourfing of this Subject, Mezerai
fays, " I meet with three forts of AiTemblies in thofe ^ r "f',
" Days; the General Courts of the Provinces ; the Champs efft °ms of
" de Mai, at whicli were prefent the Seniores and Ma- tl* villth
" jores Natu of the People, where military Affairs were C '"""J-
" chiefly debated ; and the Conventus, Colloquia, Par-
" liaments, where the Bifhops, Abbots, and other great
" Men met to make Laws, and regulate matters relating
" totheadminiftration of Juftice, the Civil Government,
" and the Publick Revenues, is'c. Thefe two laft Af-
" femblies were confounded in one ". In the Opini-
on therefore of this Hiftorian, none but the great Men
were Members of the Parliaments. But fince it may be
objected, that by the Seniores and Majores Natu that af-
filed at the Champs de Mai, are to be underftood the
Reprefentatives of the People, let us fee what Prtfident
Fauchet fays upon this head.

This learned Hiftorian mentions a certain Speech, FaucAet\
fhown him as made by Boniface Archbifhop of Mentz, ^••? v: '"
where that Prelate told Pepin, that the Gauls, omnium { v -, r ~
Ordinum, of all Orders and Degrees, had given him the
Crown. " This Speech, fays the Author, is moft cer-
" tainly fpurious. Firft, becaufe the Francs never called
" themfelves Gauls. Secondly and principally, becaufe
" of the Words omnium Ordinum ; for at that time there
" was no talk either of Orders or Degrees, none but
" Bifhops, Abbots, Earls, Nobles having a place in the
" Sanes, General Courts, or Parliaments, and the Earls,
" Commiflioners or Church-advocates, to report the Com-
" plaints of the People of their refpeftive Territories ".

Pafquier, the third Writer, whofe Authority I would Pafquier,
alledge, expreffes himfelf ftill more plainly and fully in g^. 1 ^ 88 '
this matter. His Words are: " Although fome, who 07.

(1) In the Annals of Wincbclcombe in the Corf mid* Library.

(:) To ih<- Abbey of Abbingttm in 931, which Charter is entered in the great Remitter that belonged to that Abbey, and ii now in the Cattonia*

(i) O* which Sort are Gattm in Surrey, and feveral Burroughs in Dcvonjbirx and Cirnwall, and o;her Ccuntiw,

" pre-

A Differ cation on the Government of the Anglo-Saxons.


" pretend to be well vers'd in the Hiftory of France, be-

" lieve the Afiembly of the Slate:.- General is of a very

" long (landing, nay found the Liberties of the People

" upon it, yet is neither the one nor the other true.

" I am fenfihle, and ready to own, that formerly in Gaul,

" before the Conqueft of 'Julius Cevfar, there were Ge-

" neral Ailemblies, which were continued by him under

" a pretence, familiar to the Ramans, of leaving us in

" poffeflion of our anticnt Rights and Liberties. But in

" all thefe Affemhlies you'll find none of the common

" People, whom they looked upon as fo many Cyphers.

" In like manner, you'll find, under the firft and fecond

" Race of our Kings, folcmn Conventions which were fometimes a Sp.

" called Parliaments, the principal Sinew of our Mo-

" narchy. But to thefe were fummoned only the Princes,

" Great Lords, Nobles and Dignified Churchmen. Now

" in our Aflemblies of the three Eftates, not only the

" common People have a place with the Clergy and No-
" bility, but what is more, make the greateft and belt
" Part. Whence it is then that within fome Centuries
" of Years the Commons have had a Right to fit in our
" Conventions, where are debated the Affairs relating to
" the good of the Nation in general : This is what I
" fhall account for". Then he fhows the Reafonsofthe
Common People, or Third Eftate, being firft called to
the Parliaments, and fixes the Original of it to the
time of Philip le Bel, who began his Reign in 1286.
Thefe are the TelHmonies of three very judicious
Writers, thoroughly vers'd in the Hiftory of France.
So tar therefore is the antient practice of France from
being a proof of the Antiquity of the right of the
Commons of England, that it rather ferves to weaken
the fame.
Remarhm After feeing the Arguments made ufe of For and A-
clis Dtfputc. g a ; n ft the Antiquity of the Commons Right to fit in Par-
liament, it is doubtlefs very furprizing that both Sides
fhould be fore'd to difputeupon bare Conjectures, and the
meaning of certain Terms in the Tranflations of Charters.
One would think, in a matter of this nature, each Side
mould produce more fubftantial Arguments. However this
be, the Reader may now form his Judgment upon what
has been faid, wherein I believe nothing material is omit-
ted, of what has been alledged Pro and Con, tho' I have
done it very compendioufly.

But as the greateft part of the Arguments ufed by both
Parties, are taken from the Charters of the Anglo-Saxon

tbe Charters

Kings, I fhall make one remark, which ought to be con-
fidered before Judgment is given upon this difpute. And
that is, the Authority of all thefe Charters is quefficned by
fuch as are moft verfed in the Englijh Hiftory. The rca-'
fon they alledge for it, is, that in the time of the Anglo-
Saxons, the ufe of Charters was unknown in England.
When the King made a Grant to the Church, or to any
private Perfon, he put them in pofleffion by the delivery
of a Green Turf, Bough, or the like. Formerly, fays In- //v.' - v /
gulphus, PoJpJJicn cf Lands was given by Lure Words with- l
out any Charters or other Writings. They only delivered to 1 '" 1 "
the Donee or Purchafer, a Helmet, Sword, Han, Cup,
<ur, Bow; Arrow, &c. From this Cuftom
it is inferred, that the Charters, alledged as granted by the
Anglo-Saxon Kings, were all forg'd long after their Time.
But as it may feem ftrange, there fhould be now fo many
Charters bearing date before there was any fuch thing in
ufe, a matter of Fad is advane'd, which, if true, fhows
the reafon of fuch numbers being forged. 'Tis affirm'd,
IVilliam the Conqueror finding great part of the Crown
Lands to be alienated, particularly to the Monaftcries, fum-
moned the Abbots to appear at his Court, and produce
the Titles by which they held their Eftates. Some, who
had nothing to plead but long polleflion, being difpoffelTed,
becaufe the King would allow no Title good, but what was
in form, great numbers of Monks fet about forging Char-
ters, to which they gave all the appearance of Truth that
was poflible. In this manner they deceived that Prince,
and his Norman Council, who were unacquainted with the
Hiftory, Language, and Cuftoms of the Saxons. Some
produced their Charters in Latin, but thefe were rejected,
on account of the Improbability the Saxon Kings fhould
make ufe of a Language, little underftood, and ft ill much
Iefs ufed in their Time. But whether this be true or not,
'tis however certain, feveral of thofe Charters, which are
by fome thought authentick, were forg'd, and that long
after their date. At leaft it was very difficult to be con-
vine'd by good Arguments, that thofe from whence the
Teftimonies to decide the prefent queftion are taken, are
fo antient as the time of the Anglo-Saxons.

From what has been faid, this appears to be a very in-
tricate Cafe. Neither is there any likelihood of its being
ever fet in a clearer light. Almoft all the antient Monu-
ments which might ferve to unfold the Difficulties were
buried in the Ruins of the Monafteries, either before, or
after the Norman Conqueft ( 1 ).

(1) As there are no Saxon Monuments older than the Eftablifhsnent of Christianity, and but little Light to be had from thofe that are after, recourfe
muff be had to Inference from thofe few Truths that are known, in order to difcover who were the Members of the Saxon Legiflature. Now the moft pro-
bable Hypothejis feems to be this. Power refults from and is the natural Confequence of Property or Eftates, and in all Places where Tyranny does not pre-
vail, the Perfons who compofe the Legiflature, derive that Power from the Intereft they have in fome Lands, or elfe from fome DiftincTion of Rank and
Order, which difcriminate the Members of a .Society. As therefore our Saxon Anceftors in their own Country, did all perfonally meet for the crafting
Laws J fo after their coming into England all to whom the Land was apportioned perfonally aflifted in the Saxon Parliaments, which were held at firft, du-
ring the Heptarchy in open Places capable of receiving all that had a Right to be there, becaufe there were no Minute Freeholders in thofe ear!y Days. By
the Feudal Law all Land-holders were obliged to attend at the Feudal Coutts, and had a Right to give their Alfent or Ditlent to any Laws or Orders there
propofed : Whence we yet retain the Exprcflion of the Convention oj the EJIates. After the Union of the feven Kingdoms, when the Exercife of the Legilla-
tive Power in the Perfon of every Individual became impracticable by reafon of their Remotenefs and Number, fome Change in the outward form wis necef-
fary in order to preferve the Common-wealth on the fame Principles it was at firft eftablifhed ; and as the whole Kingdom was divided into fo many little Rc-
publicks or Ty things, fome Perfon out of every Ty thing or Burrough came to the Wittena-Gemot, to take care of the Concerns of the Society he belonged to:
Thefe were called Witen or Wifemen, and were no other than the prefiding Judge or Gere/a of every Tything, who was annually chofen, b~th in the Rural
and Town Tythings. As therefore the Earls, Bilhops, and Abbots (who were the prefiding Judges in the Communities both EccleEaftical and Civil, that the
People were originally divided into) were undoubtedly Members of the Wittena-Gcmot, fo it is reafonable to think that the Witan (who were the prefiding
Judges in the leffer Communities that were afterwards made) were fo too. For it was but natural when every Individual could not appear in Perfon, that the
Delegate or Reprefentative of each Community fhould be the Perfon, to whom they had by their awn free Choice given the Precedency amongft themfelves.
Hence it is plain that the Commons or Land-holders were ever a Part of the Legiflature ; becaufe though the Earls perhaps might not be Elective or annual
Officers, after the Diflblution of the Heptarchy, as they were before, yet the Graves of the Tythings, who were Elective, being Members of the SaxonWit-
tcna-Gcmct, the Commons remained a confiituent Part of the Saxon Legifiature. Hence the Ceorles (who were the fame as our Farmers, only paying their
Rent in Corn, Hay, &c. in/lead of Money) and alfo the Thanes (who had Lands afligned them by the King or great Men in recompence for their Service,
and in lieu of Wages, and confequently were no more than Part of the Family of him they had their Lands of) were not Members of the Wittena-Gemot, ex-
cept fuch Thanes who held their Lands of the Crown for their Service which related to the Publick. (See p. 150, 151. note 4.) A Wittena-Gem-.t then was
no ether than an Affembly of all the prefiding Judges o( the Nation, Earls, Biihops and Wites, or the annual Magiftrates of the Tythings and Burroughs,
who reprefented all the Proprietors of Land in their refp.-Qive Tythings. Thus Matters ftood till the Conqueft. King William I, having affumed the regal
State as his own by Right, treated all that had oppofed him as Rebels, and difpoffelling them of their Lands, diftributed them amongft his own Confede-
rates, who held them of the Crown by a Service of a determined Number of Soldiers, in cafe of an Invaiion or a Rebellion, and they enfeoffed their own
immediate Followers with fome Portions of what was afligned to them under refervation of fuch Service. Thefe Lands were called Knights Fees, (each Fee
was about twenty Pounds a Year then, which is equal to four or five hundred Pounds now.) As the Normans were much inferior to the Engfijb in Numbers,
their Bufinefs was to fecure all the Power they could in their own hands. Accordingly, over moft of the Tythings was placed a Norman Chief, whofe Power
was to be the fame as the Saxon Gertfa, wirh this Difference, that it was to be Hereditary. Thefe Chiefs were called Barons, and their Eftates Baronies or
Honours. The Conqueror to undermine the Power of the Sjx:n Earls, which he could not fafely deftroy, difmembcicd the Barons Eftates in a manner from
the Counties, and made them recognize no Superior but the Crown. By which means there was no difference between an Earl and a Baron, but enly in Ex-
tent, the Power of both (which was exceeding great) being the fame over their Valfals. As for the Burroughs they were left in the fame Condition as in the
Sax n Times, and governed by annual Magiftrates of their own chufing. The Conformity then between the Saxon Wittena-Gcmot and Norman Parliaments
ftood thus : The Eccleliafticks and Earis were the fame in both ; the Burroughs were reprefented in both by one of theii own chufing, who was ftilcd Burgefs,
inftead of Witt, pribably becaufe the Magiftrate was not always chofen Reprefentative ; and as the Saxon Wites or prefiding Judges of the Tythings were
Members of the Legifiature, fo were the Norman Chiefs or Barons, with this Difference only, that as the firft had their Right by Election and for a Time,
the others had theirs in Sueceflion. And as the Saxon Wites fcrved for their Tythings, fo the Barons were intended by Law to ferve for the Tenants of their
Baronies, which is the Reafon why they were exempted from contributing to the Wages of the Knights of the Shire. Thus every Spot of Land was ftui re-
prefented ; for as every Part was within fome Tything in the Saxon Time, fo in the Norman every Part of the whole Kingdom was within fome Baronv or
fome Burrough. Thing* continued upon this folid Foundation during the Reigns of William Rufus and Henry I. But the Barons, who were fo many petty

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