history of england_david hume

T those justices were either prelates or considerable

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Unformatted text preview: alm.r All advances towards reason and good sense are slow and gradual. Henry, though sensible of the great absurdity attending the trial by duel or battle, did not venture to abolish it: He only admitted either of the parties to challenge a trial by an assize or jury of twelve freeholders.s This latter method of trial seems to have been very ancient in England, and was fixed by the laws of king Alfred: But the barbarous and PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 246 http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/695 Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1 violent genius of the age had of late given more credit to the trial by battle, which had become the general method of deciding all important controversies. It was never abolished by law in England; and there is an instance of it so late as the reign of Elizabeth: But the institution revived by this king, being found more reasonable and more suitable to a civilized people, gradually prevailed over it. The partition of England into four divisions, and the appointment of itinerant justices to go the circuit in each division, and to decide the causes in the counties, was another important ordinance of this prince, which had a direct tendency to curb the oppressive barons, and to protect the inferior gentry and common people in their property.t Those justices were either prelates or considerable noblemen; who, besides carrying the authority of the king’s commission, were able, by the dignity of their own character, to give weight and credit to the laws. That there might be fewer obstacles to the execution of justice, the king was vigilant in demolishing all the new erected castles of the nobility, in England as well as in his foreign dominions; and he permitted no fortress to remain in the custody of those whom he found reason to suspect.u But lest the kingdom should be weakened by this demolition of the fortresses, the king fixed an assize of arms, by which all his subjects were obliged to put themselves in a situation for defending themselves and the realm. Every man, possessed of a knight’s fee, was ordained to have for each fee, a coat of mail, a helmet, a shield, and a lance; every free layman, possessed of goods to the value of sixteen marks, was to be armed in like manner; every one that possessed ten marks was obliged to have an iron gorget, a cap of iron, and a lance; all burgesses were to have a cap of iron, a lance and a wambais; that is, a coat quilted with wool, tow, or such like materials.w It appears, that archery, for which the English were afterwards so renowned, had not, at this time, become very common among them. The spear was the chief weapon employed in battle. The clergy and the laity were during that age in a strange situation with regard to each other, and such as may seem totally incompatible with a civilized, and indeed with any species of government. If a clergyman were guilty of murder, he could be punished by degradation only: If he were murdered, the murderer was exposed to nothing but excommunication and ecclesiastical censures; and the crime was atoned for by pennances and submission.x Hence the assassins of Thomas a Becket himself, though guilty of the most atrocious wickedness, and the most repugnant to the sentiments of that age,...
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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 .

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