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Unformatted text preview: ing him into that barbarous age, deprived him of historians worthy to transmit his fame to posterity; and we wish to see him delineated in more lively colours, and with more particular strokes, that we may at least perceive some of those small specks and blemishes, from which, as a man, it is impossible he could be entirely exempted. But we should give but an imperfect idea of Alfred’s merit, were we to confine our narration to his military exploits, and were not more particular in our account of his institutions for the execution of justice, and of his zeal for the encouragement of arts and sciences. After Alfred had subdued and had settled or expelled the Danes, he found the kingdom in the most wretched condition; desolated by the ravages of those barbarians, and thrown into disorders, which were calculated to perpetuate its misery. Though the great armies of the Danes were broken, the country was full of straggling troops of that nation, who, being accustomed to live by plunder, were become incapable of industry, and who, from the natural ferocity of their manners, indulged themselves in committing violence, even beyond what was requisite to supply their necessities. The English themselves, reduced to the most extreme indigence by these continued depredations, had shaken off all bands of government; and those who had been plundered to-day, betook themselves next day to a like disorderly life, and from despair joined the robbers in pillaging and ruining their fellow citizens. These were the evils, for which it was necessary that the vigilance and activity of Alfred should provide a remedy. That he might render the execution of justice strict and regular, he divided all England into counties; these counties he subdivided into hundreds; and the hundreds into tithings. Every house-holder was answerable for the behaviour of his family and slaves, and even of his guests, if they lived above three days in his house. Ten neighbouring house-holders were formed into one corporation, who, under the name of a tithing, decennary, or fribourg, were answerable for each other’s conduct, and PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 67 http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/695 Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1 over whom one person, called a tythingman, headbourg, or borsholder, was appointed to preside. Every man was punished as an outlaw, who did not register himself in some tything. And no man could change his habitation, without a warrant or certificate from the borsholder of the tything, to which he formerly belonged. When any person in any tything or decennary was guilty of a crime, the borsholder was summoned to answer for him; and if he were not willing to be surety for his appearance and his clearing himself, the criminal was committed to prison, and there detained till his trial. If he fled, either before or after finding sureties, the borsholder and decennary became liable to enquiry, and were exposed to the penalties of law. Thirty-one days were allowed them for producing the criminal; and if that time elapsed without their being able to find him, the borsholder, with two other members of the decennary, was obliged to appear, and together with three chief members of the three neighbouring decennaries (making twelve in...
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This note was uploaded on 02/12/2011 for the course CHIN 101 taught by Professor Dr.yu during the Spring '08 term at University Of Southern Mississippi .
- Spring '08