history of england_david hume

History of england_david hume

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Unformatted text preview: rty. It is agreed, that the commons were no part of the great council, till some ages after the conquest; and that the military tenants alone of the crown composed that supreme and legislative assembly. PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 315 http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/695 Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1 The vassals of a baron were by their tenure immediately dependant on him, owed attendance at his court, and paid all their duty to the king, through that dependance which their lord was obliged by his tenure to acknowledge to his sovereign and superior. Their land, comprehended in the barony, was represented in parliament by the baron himself, who was supposed, according to the fictions of the feudal law, to possess the direct property of it; and it would have been deemed incongruous to give it any other representation. They stood in the same capacity to him, that he and the other barons did to the king: The former were peers of the barony; the latter were peers of the realm: The vassals possessed a subordinate rank within their district; the baron enjoyed a superior dignity in the great assembly: They were in some degree his companions at home; he the king’s companion at court: And nothing can be more evidently repugnant to all feudal ideas, and to that gradual subordination, which was essential to those ancient institutions, than to imagine that the king would apply either for the advice or consent of men, who were of a rank so much inferior, and whose duty was immediately paid to the mesne lord, that was interposed between them and the throne.f If it be unreasonable to think, that the vassals of a barony, though their tenure was military and noble and honourable, were ever summoned to give their opinion in national councils, much less can it be supposed, that the tradesmen or inhabitants of boroughs, whose condition was so much inferior, would be admitted to that privilege. It appears from Domesday, that the greatest boroughs were, at the time of the conquest, scarcely more than country villages; and that the inhabitants lived in entire dependance on the king or great lords, and were of a station little better than servile. g They were not then so much as incorporated; they formed no community; were not regarded as a body politic; and being really nothing but a number of low dependant tradesmen, living, without any particular civil tie, in neighbourhood together, they were incapable of being represented in the states of the kingdom. Even in France, a country which made more early advances in arts and civility than England, the first corporation is sixty years posterior to the conquest under the duke of Normandy; and the erecting of these communities was an invention of Lewis the Gross, in order to free the people from slavery under the lords, and to give them protection, by means of certain privileges and a separate jurisdiction.h An ancient French writer calls them a new and wicked device, to procure liberty to slaves, and encourage them in shaking off the dominion of their masters. i The famous charter, as it is called, of the Conqueror to the city of London, though granted at a time when he ass...
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