Page images
PDF
EPUB

his diocese assembled for determining matters touching the church, as well in faith as in government.

But the archbishop (to bind up this golden faggot in the band of union and conformity) comprehended all the bishops of his province, sub pallio suæ plenitudinis, or sub plenitudine potestatis: having supreme jurisdiction to visit and reform all in their dioceses, whatsoever was defective or omitted. That by this means no transgression might break through so many wards, but if it escaped the sword of Hazael, Jehu might slay it; or if it passed them both, yet Elisha might light upon it.

This was the model of the church policy; composed no doubt out of that fundamental rule of governa ment prescribed by Jethro unto Moses: Appoint rulers over thousands, over hundreds, over fifties, and over tens. According to the steps whereof the state temporal did likewise take her lineaments.

For the temporal government was likewise divided into satrapies or dukedoms, which contained in them divers counties; the county divers lathes or trithings; every trithing divers hundreds or wapentakes; every hundred divers towns or lordships, shortly after called baronies. And the government of all these was committed into their several heads; viz. towns or månors to the lords thereof, whom the Saxons called theings, after barons ; hundreds to the lords of the hundreds; trithings or lathes to their

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

trithingroves; counties to their earls or aldermen; and the larger satrapies to their dukes or chief princes. All which had subordinate authority, one under the other; and did within the precinct of their own territories minister justice to their subjects.

For the theinge or lord of the town, (whom the Normans called a baron,) had, of old, jurisdiction over them of his own town, (being as it were his colony;) and as Cornelius Tacitus saith, did Agricobis suis jus dicere. For those whom we now call tenants, were in those ancient times but husbandmen dwelling upon the soil of the lord, and manuring the same, on such conditions as the lord assigned; or else such as were their followers in the wars, and had therefore portions of ground appointed unto them in respect of that service; which portion was thereupon called a knights-fee; for that a servant in the war, whom the Saxons called a knight, had it allotted unto him as the fee or wages of his service. Neither at the first had they these their fees, but at the lord's pleasure, or for a time limited; and therefore both these kinds of military and husbandmen dwelling upon the town or colony of the lord, were, (as in reason they ought) under the censure and will of their lord touching the lands they occupied; who therefore set them laws and customs, how and in what manner they should possess these their lands; and as any controversy rose about them, the lord,

ässembling the rest of his followers, did by their opinion and assistance judge it. Out of which usage, the court-barons took their beginning, and the lords of towns and manners gained the privilege of holding plea and jurisdiction within those their territories over their tenants and followers; who thereupon are at this day called sectatores, in French suitres, form suiore, to follow. But ihe Saxons themselves called this jurisdiction, Sacha and Soca, signifying thereby causarum actionem, and libertatem judicandi; for sacha signifieth causa, in which sense we yet use it, as when we say for God's sake; and soca signifieth liberty or privilege, as Cyricsocne, libertas ecclesiæ. But by this manner the lords of towns (as ex consuetudine regni) came to have jurisdiction over their tenants and followers, and to hold plea of all things-touching land. But as touching cognizance in criminal matters, they had not otherwise to meddle therewith than by the king's charters. For as touching the king's peace, every hundred was divided into many freeborgs or tithings, consisting of ten men, which stood all bound one for the other, and did amongst themselves, punish small matters in their court for that purpose, called the Leet; which was sometimes granted over to the lords of manors, and sometimes exercised by peculiar officers. But the greater things were also carried from thence into the hundred courts; so that both the streams of civil justice, and

CC 2

.

of criminal, did there meet, and were decided by the hundreds, &c. as by superior judges, both of the court baron, and court Leet also.

Edward the confessor (Ll. cap. 32) saith, that there were justices over every ten freeborgs, called Deans, or Tienheofod, (that is, head of ten,) which among their neighbours in towns compounded matters of trespasses done in pastures, meadows, corn, and other strifes rising among them. But the greater matters, saith he, were referred to superior justices appointed over every ten of them, whom we call centurions, centenaries, or hundradors, because they judged over an hundred freeborgs.

The lord of the hundred, therefore, had jurisdiction over all the towns of the hundred, as well in criminal matters as in civil, and they that failed of their right in the court barons, tithings, or Leets, might now prosecute it here before the lord of the hundred and his followers, called the suitors of the hundred, which were the lords and owners of lands within that hundred; who were tied to be there at every court; which, as appeareth by the laws of Henry la cap. 8. was to be holden twelve times in the year, that is, once every month: but especially a full appearance was required twice in the

in

year,

memory whereof the suitors are at this day called at our Lady and Michaelmas courts, by the steward of the hundred.

These (as I said before) held plea of trespasses done in pastures, meadows, corn, and such like, and of other strifes arising between neighbour and neighbour, and (as by and by also shall be shewed) of criminal matters, touching the very life of a man.

The works of Spelman erected a sort of store-house for the writers of English history since his time. He was the restorer of Saxon literature, first by his own study of that language, and afterwards by the foundation of a Saxon professorship at Cambridge, in the

year 1639.

His eldest son, sir John Spelman, was also a man of considerable learning. He was the author of several compositions; and in particular, of a Life of King Alfred, which he left in MS. Some time after the restoration, this was translated from the English into Latin, by Mr. Christopher Ware, and published in 1679, fol. by Mr. Obadiah Walker. The original English, however, was printed by Mr. Hearne in 1709, 8vo.

« PreviousContinue »