« AnteriorContinuar »
good vassals and comrades ;' and then rising from his seat, he ordered the grants to be recalled. * At a much earlier period, when the French were threatening to invade Catalonia, Peter III. assembled the Cortes of Arragon at Tarazona, to solicit their assistance. The Cortes laid before him a statement of grievances, for which they demanded redress before they would engage in the war, saying, that subjects without their rights could have little heart to fight for their king. Peter was obstinate, and refrget to listen to their grievances, till the war was over; on which they confederated together, according to the antient use and custom of their country, for the preservation of their laws, franchises and liberties, resolving to stand by one another in the enterprise, and to punish all who took part against them, but without renouncing their allegiance to the king, unless he should punish any of them without a legal trial, in which case they declared they should no longer consider him as their lawful king, but transfer their allegiance to his son. All,' says the historian, were unanimous in this determination; the ricos omes and knights were not more jealous of their liberties than. the common and inferior persons, all were of opinion, that the being and existence of Arragon depended, not on the strength of the kingdom, but on its liberty; all were resolved, that if their liberties must perish, the kingdom should perish with them.' Peter was compelled at length to give way, and to grant the Privilegio general, or; ás Mr Hallam justly calls it, the Magna Charta of Arragon
We must pass over the two following chapters on the Ger.. man and Greek empires, with a general recommendation to our readers, of their contents.
The chapter on ecclesiastical power is written with great care, and composed in a truly liberal and philosophical spirit. Mr Hallam traces the gradual usurpations of the ecclesiastical on the civil authority, favoured sometimes by the mistaken policy or devotion, and sometimes submitted to by the weakness and pusillanimity of Princes. He shows by what steps tho Church acquired an exclusive jurisdiction over its own members, and by what artifices its tribunals made such extensive encroachments on the civil courts. He exposes the impudent pretensions of the Bishops, in the ninth and tenth centuries, and hardly regrets the subjugation to which they were reduced by the Roman see in the eleventh and twelfth. With some bias in favour of the Throne, he relates the contests between the Crown and the Papal tiara; but expatiates with just indig.
* Zurita, lib. 7. cap. 17.
nation on the shameless rapacity and immoderate ambition of the Roman Pontiff, when he succeeded in the struggle. The scandalous dissoluteness and open simony of Avignon, prepared the downfal of the Papal power; and the schism, that so long disgraced and divided the Church, was near reducing its chiefs to the comparatively humble station they had filled in the tenth century. But the violent and outrageous conduct of the councils enabled them to recover some portion of their authority. The Bishops, who were ready enough to seize the spoils of the Church, gave ample warning at Constance, that its spiritual weapons would not be suffered to rust in their hands. Their decree, that no faith was to be kept with Huss, in prejudice of the Catholic Church, has affixed a stain on that assembly, which no time or casuistry can efface. We were please ed with a reflection of Mr Hallam on that tragical event. As the sober judgment of history, on all similar transactions, it is the sentence of posterity on all who violate their engagements with a fallen enemy, or profit by capitulations, and then evade the performance of them. The great moral,' he observes,
to be drawn from the condemnation of Huss is, that no breach of faith can be excused by our opinion of ill desert in the party, or by a narrow interpretation of our own engagements. Every capitulation ought to be construed favourably for the weaker side. In such cases it is emphatically true, that if the letter killeth, the spirit should give life.
Throughout this chapter, Mr Hallam is animated with a laudable zeal against the impostures and usurpations of the Church; and, in relating the measures taken in different countries to restrain the enormous jurisdiction once possessed by the hierarchy, he makes this sensible observation, that ecclesiastical, and not merely papal encroachments, are what civil governments, and the laity in general, have to resist ; a point which some very zealous opposers of Rome have been willing to keep out of sight. The latter arose out of the former, and perhaps were in some respects less objectionable. But the true enemy is what are called High-Church principles—be they maintained by a pope, a bishop, or a presbyter,
We shall not enter into an examination of some doubtful points, concerning which we might, perhaps, differ from Mr Hallam; but we cannot dismiss this chapter without remarking, that he hardly does justice to the Church in the dispute about investitures. The open simony practised by kings and princes ; their scandalous nominations to vacant benefices; their spoliation of the lands and property of the clergy committed to their custody; the number of yeats they kept abbeys and bishopricks
vacant, in order to enjoy their temporalities, rendered some regulations necessary to restrain their rapacity. Religion would otherwise have fallen into poverty and contempt; and the restraints, such as they were, which it opposed to lawless violence and brutal indulgence, would have become altogether ineffectual. That the Pope made a bad use of his victory, cannot be
denied; but the struggle was necessary; and, like other re. · forms, the change was for some time beneficial. We are also
of opinion, that Mr Hallam has not given sufficient credit to the Church for her services in the cause of civil liberty. We doubt whether the kings of Europe would not have succeeded universally in usurping an absolute authority over their subjects, if they had not been engaged in contests with the Church, which occupied their time, weakened their power, and forced them to cultivate the affections of their people. It cannot be denied, that whatever success attended the efforts of the Italian republics against the emperors, they were greatly indebted for it to the support and countenance of the Popes. In our country, the quarrel between Becket and Henry Plantagenet was fortunately interposed at a critical moment, most dangerous to our liberties, when a young, ambitious, and artful prince had been recalled to the throne after a disastrous usurpation. The exhortations and counsels of Langton prompted and directed the Barons in their contest with John; and the disputes of his grandson with the clergy, contributed not a little to obtain for us the last confirmation and final establishment of the charters. In all contests between the Crown and the People in the middle ages, we find the monkish chroniclists on the popular side of the question; and these men, no doubt, spoke the sentiments of the order to which they belonged. The lower clergy, necessarily taken from the body of the people, must have participatod in all their feelings; and, where the interests of the Church were not concerned, must have been inclined, in general, to espouse their cause. The democracy of Europe had, in those ages, no political power or consideration, except the portion it enjoyed through these its virtual representatives in the Church. Superstition, which in our days has contributed so powerfully to rivet the chains of nations, was fortunately an ally of the people, when her influence was at its height.
The chapter that follows, on the Constitution of England, is the most valuable and interesting part of the book. We have no hesitation in stating it to be the most full, accurate, and impartial history of the constitution, that has yet appeared. In addition to other sources of information, Mr Hallam has made careful and diligent use of the rolls of Parliament; by the assistance of which, he has been enabled to trace, with greater exactness than any former historian, the progress of our constitu tional liberties, from the reign of Edward III. to the accession of the house of York, when the records of Parliament become comparatively barren and insignificant. Without setting up our antient constitution as a model of perfection, he has shown that the people of this country have always lived under à monarchy limited by law; and, in this view, his work may be consi. dered as a complete and satisfactory answer to the false and mischievous theories of Brady and Carte, adapted and brought into notice by the genius and authority of Hume. The work of Mr Miller, the only historical view of the constitution that has appeared since Mr Hume's history, is reinarkable for the sagacity of its conjectures, the ingenuity of its explanations, the boldness of its discussions, and its total frocdom from prejudice; but it is deficient in accuracy and research, and will not bring conviction to a mind that has received its first impressions from the plausible but delusive representations of Hume. It is with great satisfaction, thereforc, that we recommend the work before us to all who doubt the existence, or desire to trace the progress of our liberties, in the middle ages. . .
It would be idle to attempt any abstract or abridgement of this part of Mr Hallam's book. We shall content ourselves with a few critical remarks, and some extracts, to show the spirit and principles of the work.
Mr Hallam is inclined, with Carte, to doubt the story told by Mathew Paris of the election of John to the Crown of England, after the death of his brother Richard.. The speech put in the mouth of Archbishop Hubert by the historian, is cer. tainly • in a strain beyond the constitution;' but there is a circumstance, unnoticed by historians, that gives some probability to his account of a more formal election than ordinary. It has been usual for the Kings of England to date their accession to the throne from the death of their predecessor, But it will be found in Rymer, that John, in his public instruments, dates the commencement of his reign, not from the death of his brother, but from his own coronation.' Inattention to this peculiarity has led the modern editors of the Fædera to misplace some of the most important documents of his reign; those, in particular, that relate to the occupation of London by the Barons. . .
Mr Hallam admires, with reason, that equality of civil rights enjoyed by all the Cominons of England. It is a proud distinction ; and, till the l'rench revolution, we believe, peculiar to this island. But we apprehend he is mistaken in supposing,
that, from the reign of Henry III. at least, the legal equality of all ranks below the peerage was, to every essential purpose, as complete as at present.' He has surely forgotten the statute of Morton, which declares, that lords shall not marry those they have in ward to villeins or others, as burgesses, where they be disparaged. It is quite clear, that when this act was passed, burgesses were considered an inferior class to freeholders.
We agree, with Mr Hallam, that we read very little of private wars in England;' but we are not satisfied that they were never legal.' He quotes a passage from Glanvil, where that author expresses his doubts, whether a lord was entitled to demand an aid from his vassal ad gucrram suam manutenendam, but thinks this expression must relate to the military service due from the lord to his sovereign.' If such had been the meaning of Glanvil, he would not have expressed himself doubtfully; for there can be no question, that the military tenants of a tenant in chief were bound to assist him in performing his military service to the Crown, either by their personal attendance in the field, or by contributing, according to the extent of their fees, to the seutage imposed on him. But the following passage, from the same author, which seems to have escaped Mr Hallam, places beyond a doubt the right of private war in England; and, notwithstanding the dubious expressions in the former quotation, establishes the principle, that vassals were bound to assist their lords in their private quarrels. Si quis plura homagia pro diversis feodis suis fecerit diversis dominis, qui se invicem infestant, si capitalis dominus ejus ei preceperit, quod secum in propria persona sua eat contra alium dominum suum, oportet eum ejus precepto in hoc obtemperare, salvo tamen servitio alterius domini de feodo quod de eo tenet. * If a vassal holds te. nements of different lords, says Bracton, “et si inter dominos suos capitales oriantur inimicitia, in propria persona semper stabit cum eo cui fecit ligeantiam, et per attornatum cum aliis.'+ • The most prominent instance,' says Mr Hallam, of what may be deemed a private war in England, arose out of a contention between the Earls of Gloucester and Hereford, in the reign of Edward I., during which acts of extraordinary violence were perpetrated ; but, far from its having passed for lawful, those powerful nobles were both committed to prison, and paid heavy fines.' This statement is not quite correct. These noblemen were not fined and imprisoned, because they made war simply, but because they made war after they had been prohibited by the king in Parliament. The punishment that attend
ΟΤΙΙτο * Glanvil, lib. 2, c. 1. + Bracton, lib. 2, c. 35, sect. 5.