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Jew, or a Pagan: in other respects, they were considered as absolute property, and their owners were not even fined for taking their lives. The only consolation we feel in reflecting upon the miserable state of these persons, arises from the knowledge that the diffusion of the Christian faith gradually relieved them, and emancipated numbers. Those who thus, or by other means, became freed men, must still have suffered in a state of dependence, through a sense of obligation, or gratitude to their former masters ; and it is only to the third rank in this gradation that we can look with pleasure; the Ceorls, or farmers, who held lands of the Thanes, or nobles, and enjoyed the same degree of liberty our opulent agriculturists do at present, with the privilege of their sons choosing any profession they thought proper. When a youth felt a propensity to arms, he had the privilege of selecting some powerful noble as his patron ; and if he signalized himself in battle, or pleased his lord by other services, he was rewarded with a portion of land, a suit of armour, and was considered as a Thane: to which title the Ceorl who farmed might attain by industry and æconomy; and, indeed, by commerce, or obtaining priest's orders, through superior learning. The consequence and authority of the nobility may be so well imagined, that it is useless to particularize their privileges. To preserve this separation of the different
branches of society, their laws forbade either class to mix with another by marriage ; but they subsequently relaxed in this particular.
One of their customs was extremely singular: when they commenced a war, they contrived to obtain a soldier of the nation implicated ; and, matching him with one of their own, they compelled them to fight, till one was subdued ; and thus they augured of the success, or the reverse, of the projected conflict.
When employed in council, the chiefs were permitted to give their sentiments on the subject in contemplation by persuasives only. If the arguments were approved of, the spears, and other weapons of the assembly, were struck together : opposition to them was announced by inarticulate noises. At these councils persons were appointed who were to administer justice in the hamlets and villages, assisted by an hundred associates, selected from the inhabitants of the district. Our best authors on the jurisprudence of England are of opinion, that the antient right of Wapentakes originated from the councils, and the Hundreds from the latter custom. They were a warlike people; and preserved that character by refusing to permit the assumption of arms before a stated period of life, when the youth received them from a parent, or relation, in full council. Previous to this ceremony,
young man was considered merely in the light of a member of his own family;
but after it had taken place, he became a portion of the Common-wealth. An illustrious descent, or very important achievements in a father, procured his son the respect and consequence of a chief. In this instance we are still complete Saxons. In the article of Marriage, the husband gave
the wife part of his property as a settlement; the wife, on the other hand, according to some authors, went to her consort pennyless. If the latter violated her nuptial vow, the revenge of the husband was severe indeed; as the law permitted him to strip her, cut off her hair, turn her out from his residence in the presence of her relations, and beat her through the neighbourhood ; Canute added, the privilege of cutting off her nose and ears. The females of more polished nations than the Saxon are not always restrained from the indulgence of criminal passions by the stigma which laxity of morals invariably produces in the community of which they are members : perhaps the Saxons were aware, that contempt alone was not sufficient to preserve the chastity of their wives, and therefore devised a custom horrible in itself, and detestable in its contrivers. What would our Crim. Con. females, and their dear friends, say to a law, which compelled the former to hang herself, and the latter to be executed over the burnt body or ashes of his victim; or to the savage practice of the women who drove the wanton from
her home with whips, and, tearing her garments, plunged knives into her flesh till she expired, with terror, despair, and wounds. Strong, indeed, must have been the sense of female
propriety possessed by this portion of our ancestors ; and yet they permitted alliances which we hold to be extremely improper—the marriage of a son to his father's widow, and of brothers and sisters-in-law.
From these particulars it will be found, that the sense of the propriety of confining one man to one woman, was extremely strong and acute amongst the Saxons. It was the practice with these people to appoint a guardian to each female early in her life, whose power over her was considerable; nor could he be deprived of it without his own concurrence. In the first instance, the father acted as such; the brothers on his decease ; and, in case neither of those relations were living, the cousins or uncles assumed the office; the widow passed under the care of the husband's male heir ; and, finally, the King was guardian of all those who were destitute of the relatives already mentioned. No marriage solemnized without the consent of the guardian deprived him of the rights of guardianship: his consent might, however, be procured by a handsome present. When this important point was secured, the friends of the young man gave security that the vrard should be properly treated and maintained
by her intended husband. In opposition to Selden, Dr. Henry cites many antient authorities, to prove that the woman's friends, and the witnesses of her nuptials, made the parties valuable presents, which
be considered equal to a fixed dowry. One excellent custom was established amongst the Saxons in the descent of property, which went, bond fide, to the children of the possessor ; and this remained in force for a long period with respect to land, except in some particular cases pleading exemption. In default of issue, brothers or uncles of the parents inherited. Another of their usages was diabolical, and this they termed a Deadly Feud; under which enmities were continued from generation to generation. The only feature tolerable in these feuds was, that they might be appeased, even in cases of murder, by a present of cattle. Our fees and tenures may be traced to the Saxon practice of imposing on their tenants the payment of certain quantities of corn, cattle, &c.
The custom of calling this island England is thus mentioned by Selden: “ Egbert, King of the West Saxons (I make use of Camden's words), having gotten in four kingdoms by conquest, and devoured the other two also, in hope that what had come under the government of one might likewise
go under one name, and that he might keep up the memory of his own people, the Angles, he gave order, by proclamation, that the