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rankled in the breasts of his new subjects, and forbade their yielding him a willing homage. Unfortunately, too, the ancient spirit of the Norsemen was not extinguished in his followers. This "goodly land," which William's chaplain represents as "surpassing Gaul in abundance of the precious metals, which for fertility may be termed the garden of Ceres, and for riches the treasury of Arabia," presented allurements too strong for the plunderloving propensities of the descendants of Bier and Hastings; and in an age when coat-of-mail and trusty brand were stronger than law, they, whatever were the views of their leader, seem to have felt no reluctance in claiming all England as a legitimate field for plunder. In their train, or invited over by exaggerated reports of the wealth and fertility of the land, Bretons, and even Flemings, followed fast; and foreign manners, foreign customs, and a foreign tongue ere long overspread the land. Still, galling and oppressive as this yoke of foreign bondage proved to that generation, each foreign band brought great and enduring benefits. The refinement of the Norman shamed the rudeness of the Saxon; the aspiring energies of the Norman stimulated the sluggish powers of the Saxon; the Fleming brought with him (inestimable boon!) that spirit of commercial enterprize which has placed England chief among the nations ; while the Breton bore from his desolate land that precious freight of romantic fiction which taught the haughty Norman to view with pride his adopted country, England, because it was the land of King Arthur. Nor, among the benefits resulting from this important revolution, must we overlook the fresh impulse which almost expiring learning received from the hands of the Norman prelates. While the Saxon, unconscious of the benefits he should ere long derive, saw with indignant feelings the crosiers of the richest sees placed in the hands of these foreign churchmen, little reason had the nation to complain of a measure which gave the learned Osmund to Salisbury, and " William the good bishop," to whose tomb the citizens pressed for so many centuries, to offer grateful homage, to the see of London, and the wise and learned Lanfranc, that illustrious scholar whose fame, from the lowly Abbey of Bec, went forth to the uttermost parts of Europe; him, whose life-long effort it was to found a library in every convent, and a school in every church, to the ecclesiastical supremacy of the land.
The earlier years of William's reign were, indeed, characterized by singular liberality: within the precincts of his court the heir to the Saxon crown found a safe and honourable asylum; some of the chief Saxon nobles were elevated to offices of high trust and dignity; the laws of the land were preserved, and even the general forms of their administration underwent but slight alteration. Repeated insurrections, and repeated assassinations, at length proved to William the necessity of a sterner rule; and then commenced those extensive confiscations of property, those severe and sanguinary laws, and that interference with the peculiar habits and customs of the people, which they found even more onerous than the most oppressive enactment.* Still, even during this period, many beneficial laws were made, and an excuse may be found even for the severest, if we except the Forest code, in the peculiar circumstances of the land. The Saxons were always addicted to riotous affrays, to spoliation, and to the indulgence of private revenge; now it was against such offences that the laws of the Conqueror were emphatically directed, and the rigorous infliction of the assigned punishment, in every case, instead of allowing it to be commuted by pecuniary fine, however harsh it might seem to the Saxon in the eleventh century, will surely not appear so to the Englishman of the nineteenth. But the Saxon himself was, ere long, compelled to admit the superior protection which he enjoyed, both in person and property, beneath the stern rule of the Conqueror. The Saxon Chronicle allows the beneficial tendency of those severe enactments which guarded the honour of even the lowest class of women, and in language almost of eulogy, dwells on "the good peace he made in the land, so that a man with his bosom full of gold might go over the kingdom unhurt, and no man durst slay another, though he had done ever so much evil against him." Surely such benefits were most important to the rising interests of a rude and unsettled community. If, however, we wish to do full justice to the character of this gifted man, we must contemplate him in his municipal charters, and in his wider legislative enactments. In those relating to towns,
great anxiety is evinced for the promotion of trade and commerce, the peculiar rights and form of government is guaranteed to each burgh or city, the inhabitants are declared "law-worthy"—that is, subject to no jurisdiction save their own; and unmolested residence for a year and a day within its walls, ensured to the hereditary bondsman the precious boon of freedom. To the bondsman, indeed, the memory of the stern Conqueror must have been dear; for other legislative enactments declared that the lords should not deprive them of their lands so long as they did proper service; that they should not do more than that service, and that they should not be sold out of the land. In the Domesday inquisitions, too, it was one of the legal inquiries, "Whether any of the peasantry had a right of leaving the lands they occupied, and of going whither they pleased; and this right was carefully recorded, that they might not in after-times be deprived of it." Nor did his laws reach only the inferior classes; the power which successfully controlled a rude and turbulent population, was efficient to keep in check a haughty and warlike aristocracy. From the profound policy of this gifted man, the feudal system in this country presented, in many important points, a marked distinction from that established in France, and far more in unison with the free institutions of the land. The fiefs of the Anglo-Norman barons were not merely less extensive than those of France, but their manors were dispersed through various counties: "Estates so disjoined, however immense in their aggregate, were
ill calculated for supporting a rebellion." The rights, too, of these nobles were greatly limited; they might have power of " stocks and donjon-keep," but "gallows-tree" was too "royal" a prerogative to be allowed; and except in the counties palatine, and perhaps in a few extreme instances in this and the following century, the English baron could never boast that cherished prerogative of every French noble who possessed a castle, the right of " la haute justice." As another counterbalance to the power of the great feudal nobles, the civil institutions of the land were continued, and their popular forms preserved. "While the conquest changed the proprietary body of England, it still left most of its civil institutions undestroyed, or only new-named: the witenagemot survived in the parliament, and the earldermen, the knights, the freemen, the gerefa or mayor, the shire gerefa or sheriff, the hundred, the wapentake, the county court, were all preserved;"* while, in 1085, William, by receiving at Salisbury the fealty of all the landholders in the kingdom, "broke in upon the feudal compact in its most essential attribute, the exclusive dependence of a vassal upon his lord."f
Most advantageous to all classes were those wide and general gatherings of all the vassals throughout the land. In the feudal institutions there is much picturesque grandeur; and the Normans, from that innate poetic feeling which in the following century rendered them the poet-fathers of modern verse, invested all the great festivals of the court