history of england_david hume

Z such an accumulation of powers was itself a great

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Unformatted text preview: same barony; the hundred-court and county-court, which were still continued as during the Saxon times,q to judge between the subjects of different baronies,r and the curia Regis or king’s court, to give sentence among the barons themselves.s But this plan, though simple, was attended with some circumstances, which, being derived from a very extensive authority, assumed by the Conqueror, contributed to increase the royal prerogative; and as long as the state was not disturbed by arms, reduced every order of the community to some degree of dependance and subordination. The king himself often sat in his court, which always attended his person:t He there heard causes and pronounced judgment;u and though he was assisted by the advice of the other members, it is not to be imagined that a decision could easily be obtained contrary to his inclination or opinion. In his absence the chief justiciary presided, who was the first magistrate in the state, and a kind of viceroy, on whom depended all the civil affairs of the kingdom.w The other chief officers of the crown, the constable, mareschal, seneschal, chamberlain, treasurer, and chancellor,x were members, together with such feudal barons as thought proper to attend, and the barons of the exchequer, who at first were also feudal barons, appointed by the king.y This court, which was sometimes called the King’s court, sometimes the court of Exchequer, judged in all causes, civil and criminal, and comprehended the whole business, which is now shared out among four courts, the Chancery, the King’s Bench, the Common Pleas, and the Exchequer.z Such an accumulation of powers was itself a great source of authority, and rendered the jurisdiction of the court formidable to all the subjects; but the turn, which judicial trials took soon after the Conquest, served still more to increase its authority, and to PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 318 http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/695 Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1 augment the royal prerogatives. William, among the other violent changes, which he attempted and effected, had introduced the Norman law into England,a had ordered all the pleadings to be in that tongue, and had interwoven, with the English jurisprudence, all the maxims and principles, which the Normans, more advanced in cultivation, and naturally litigious, were accustomed to observe in the distribution of justice. Law now became a science, which at first fell entirely into the hands of the Normans; and which, even after it was communicated to the English, required so much study and application, that the laity, in those ignorant ages, were incapable of attaining it, and it was a mystery almost solely confined to the clergy, and chiefly to the monks.b The great officers of the crown and the feudal barons, who were military men, found themselves unfit to penetrate into those obscurities; and though they were entitled to a seat in the supreme judicature, the business of the court was wholly managed by the chief justiciary and the law barons, who were men appointed by the king, and entirely at his disposal.c This natur...
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