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Unformatted text preview: ons, by raising the military tenants to a kind Manners. of sovereign dignity, by rendering personal strength and valour requisite, and by making every knight and baron his own protector and avenger, begat that martial pride and sense of honour, which, being cultivated and embellished by the poets and romance writers of the age, ended in chivalry. The virtuous knight fought PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 326 http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/695 Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1 not only in his own quarrel; but in that of the innocent, of the helpless, and above all, of the fair, whom he supposed to be for ever under the guardianship of his valiant arm. The uncourteous knight, who, from his castle, exercised robbery on travellers, and committed violence on virgins, was the object of his perpetual indignation; and he put him to death, without scruple or trial or appeal, wherever he met with him. The great independance of men made personal honour and fidelity the chief tie among them; and rendered it the capital virtue of every true knight, or genuine professor of chivalry. The solemnities of single combat, as established by law, banished the notion of every thing unfair or unequal in rencounters; and maintained an appearance of courtesy between the combatants, till the moment of their engagement. The credulity of the age grafted on this stock the notion of giants, enchanters, dragons, spells,r and a thousand wonders, which still multiplied during the times of the Crusades; when men, returning from so great a distance, used the liberty of imposing every fiction on their believing audience. These ideas of chivalry infected the writings, conversation, and behaviour of men, during some ages; and even after they were, in a great measure, banished by the revival of learning, they left modern gallantry and the point of honour, which still maintain their influence, and are the genuine offspring of those ancient affectations. The concession of the Great Charter, or rather its full establishment (for there was a considerable interval of time between the one and the other), gave rise, by degrees, to a new species of government, and introduced some order and justice into the administration. The ensuing scenes of our history are therefore somewhat different from the preceding. Yet the Great Charter contained no establishment of new courts, magistrates, or senates, nor abolition of the old. It introduced no new distribution of the powers of the commonwealth, and no innovation in the political or public law of the kingdom. It only guarded, and that merely by verbal clauses, against such tyrannical practices as are incompatible with civilized government, and, if they become very frequent, are incompatible with all government. The barbarous licence of the kings, and perhaps of the nobles, was thenceforth somewhat more restrained: Men acquired some more security for their properties and their liberties: And government approached a little nearer to that end, for which it was originally instituted, the distribution of justice, and the...
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- Spring '08