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Unformatted text preview: hould be guilty of that crime.b Among a people, who lived in so simple a manner as the Anglo-Saxons, the judicial power is always of greater importance than the legislative. There were few or no taxes imposed by the states: There were few statutes enacted; and the nation was less governed by laws, than by customs, which admitted a great latitude of interpretation. Though it should, therefore, be allowed, that the Wittenagemot was altogether composed of the principal nobility, the county-courts, where all the free-holders were admitted, and which regulated all the daily occurrences of life, formed a wide basis for the government, and were no contemptible checks on the aristocracy. But there is another power still more important than either the judicial or legislative; to wit, the power of injuring or serving by immediate force and violence, for which it is difficult to obtain redress in courts of justice. In all extensive governments, where the execution of the laws is feeble, this power naturally falls into the hands of the principal nobility; and the degree of it which prevails, cannot be determined so much by the public statutes, as by small incidents in history, by particular customs, and sometimes by the reason and nature of things. The Highlands of Scotland have long been entitled by law to every privilege of British subjects; but it was not till very lately that the common people could in fact enjoy these privileges. The powers of all the members of the Anglo-Saxon government are disputed among historians and antiquaries: The extreme obscurity of the subject, even though faction had never entered into the question, would naturally have begotten those controversies. But the great influence of the lords over their slaves and tenants, the clientship of the burghers, the total want of a middling rank of men, the extent of the monarchy, the loose execution of the laws, the continued disorders and convulsions of the state; all these circumstances evince, that the Anglo-Saxon government became at last extremely aristocratical; and the events, during the period immediately preceding the conquest, confirm this inference or conjecture. Both the punishments inflicted by the Anglo-Saxon courts of Criminal law. judicature, and the methods of proof employed in all causes, appear somewhat singular, and are very different from those which prevail at present among all civilized nations. We must conceive, that the ancient Germans were little removed from the original state of nature: The social confederacy among them was more martial than civil: They had chiefly in view the means of attack or defence against public enemies, not those of protection against their fellow-citizens: Their possessions were so slender and so equal, that they were not exposed to great danger; and the natural bravery of the people made every man trust to himself and to his particular friends for his defence or PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 129 http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/695 Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1 vengeance. This defect in the politica...
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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