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smallness of the direct evidence which now exists upon the subject: Yet there is a mass of circumstantial proof, sufficient, if carefully and conscientiously handled, to afford a satisfactory induction which will discover to us the true ascription of the English nationality. And this induction, while it will identify our modern Englishman with the Romano-Briton of the Empire, will also yield the fact that his nationality owes its origin to a branch of a great Cis-rhenan people, which in its continental seat strained the nerve of the great dictator before it submitted to the genius of the Empire. Of this people, as the true continental branches have been long since lost or merged, England is now the sole representative.
And such is the neglected fact. Or, as Mr. Coote otherwise puts it:
This induction, while it shows that the English are only Angles as the French are Franks, and the Northern Italians are Lombards, is a fact in English history which has been undeservedly neglected, and as it will assist to explain the peculiarities of Englishmen, it may go far to justify their pride in them.
The manner in which all this is worked up in the body of the essay (as the book may better than anything else be called) is very learned, but far from being satisfactory or even ordinarily attractive by the form and method of its literary statement. One would have imagined, that in order to make good his position, the author would have begun at the beginning, and traced the national phenomena up to the AngloSaxon conquest and supercession of the Roman Britain, pointing out, as he went on, his various Roman evidences. But instead of such a natural and progressive induction, Mr. Coote opens up with a view of society as organised by the Anglo-Saxons, who, he tells us, were divided into gesithas and ceorlas, the first of these being in fact the gentry of the period; the other being a subject population, although not servile. They were in fact distinct castes. "But," says Mr. Coote, "distinct castes in the same nation are in other words distinct nationalities on the same soil," and these gesithas and ceorlas
were "two nationalities or peoples co-existing in Anglo-Saxon England." These Anglo-Saxon gesithas, or gentlemen, owed their rank and privileges to the merely military and barbarous right of conquest-with deference to the Austrians and Prussians of our day be it said—but which in the primitive times to which we are referring, conferred a high moral title; and
The name of gesith, in other respects endeared to the German mind, became ennobled in the estimation of the Anglo-Saxon, and was transmitted by him to his descendents to be borne in perpetual remembrance, as well of the stupendous triumph of his race as also of the conditions upon which these properties and privileges had been obtained.
The privileges of the gesithas consisted of rights proprietary, political, and judicial. The gesith became a landholder:
Land became his badge as well as his privilege.
He was never
to be disconnected from the land nor the land from him. A gesith and a landholder became convertible terms, and the land, from being the possession of a paramount class, became the distinctive symbol of the class itself.
As for his political privileges—
It was his exclusive right to attend the public councils of his kingdom, whether they were those general political assemblies of the nation which decided on war or peace, or the judicial meetings of his own hundred or shire.
But the gesithas were not only the political masters, they were also the judges of the land. This fact, however, is stated by Mr. Coote in a way less interesting and true as regards the remote ideal of the judicial office in England than as throwing light on the origin of our jury. The assembled gesithas, in fact, appear to have been neither more nor less than our jury, and the functions of the two bodies appear to have been not dissimilar. Mr. Coote says:
The scyrgemot was composed of all the gesithas of the county, VOL. XVII.-NO. XXXIV.
and their attendance upon that Court was compulsory; and though the Court was presided over by the caldorman of the shire, it was not that officer, but the gesithas, who determined the questions of life and property submitted to the adjudication of the Court.
From a subsequent passage we learn that the number of gesithas was twelve, but strange to say they appear to have been legally and technically known, not so much with reference to themselves personally, but as representing the quantity of land which they unitedly possessed, thus, speaking of the hide, as a measure of land, we are told, " Metaphor, in this measure of land, became precise and technical phraseology of Anglo-Saxon law; and an union of twelve thegns (or gesithas) to testify the innocence of the accused was known to the tribunal as an oath of sixty hides." Of course by such land hidage was to be understood, what in fact Mr. Coote states, that to be duly qualified, the gesitha or thegn must have been the possessor of at least five hides of land.
The jurisdiction, however, of these gesithas appears to have been something more definite and precise than the province of our juries. Mr. Coote describes it as a right of judicature, and says it was called thegnscipe.
These details, although they show a want of good arrangement in Mr. Coote's statement of his case, are interesting in themselves. But we pass on to the ceorlas or inferior class, whose position and history are more to the point. It is in truth to these ceorlas that the neglected fact alone applies. Although relatively subject and inferior to the Anglo-Saxon gesithas, it was they who claimed the Romans for their ancestors, and their civilisation was Roman and nothing else. In this respect, indeed, they were in the anomalous position of being greatly superior to their Anglo-Saxon lords, who
"Claimed and exulted," as our author tells us, " in a descent from Jutes, Angles, and Saxons, and from those Jutes, Angles, and Saxons who conquered or occupied Britain in the fifth or sixth centuries."
Mr. Coote proceeds to observe :
But of the origin and descent of the lower class, their masters have not left us a word of record or information.
This, therefore, is the only question left open for inquiry and decision, and its solution is the subject of this essay.
At starting, it may be observed, that this class, whatever be its origin, must either have been imported into Roman Britain by the Anglo-Saxons, or must have been a population there found and retained by them.
The first of these suppositions Mr. Coote dismisses as unfounded, labouring to demonstrate that the latter was the truth. The conclusion, therefore, is that the Anglo-Saxons found in the country a British people who had proceeded from a Roman origin, but whose laws, especially as they related to land, the successful invaders appear to have appreciated and retained. Mr. Coote here, we regret to say, does not explain himself clearly, although we think we have caught his meaning. He speaks of the laws of Anglo-Saxon England upon the subject of real estate, but his argument shows that these laws were not the laws of the Anglo-Saxons themselves, but the laws which they found prevailing in the country; in fact, the laws of the inferior and subject ceorlas. He, notwithstanding, describes one of these laws as "the early and true Anglo-Saxon," although in a few sentences afterwards, he demonstrates it to have been Roman, and a law which affected landed possessions in the provinces of the empire, i.e., the Roman empire. There is, indeed, a most annoying confusion throughout, in Mr. Coote's application of national names, and the confusion is all the more annoying from his matter being really most valuable and interesting. The national name of a race or community should indicate with more or less precision some distinct historical epoch, but really without the closest attention to his context, it is very difficult to understand what our author means by "Anglo-Saxon" this and that. Among the laws referred to, there was a certain imperfect
and conditional estate in land, or modified species of ownership, which could neither be alienated nor devised without the consent of the king. This estate Mr. Coote traces to have originated in the Roman possessio, which was a device of the governing families of Rome, and was in this wise:-the State, instead of alienating, retained the dominion of lands captured from the enemy, granting possession of them to tenants who, while they should pay an annual tithe of the products, should be bound to surrender their holding whenever the State should call upon them to do so. It appears to have been for financial reasons that this kind of holding was extended to the territorial conquests made by the Roman republic beyond the limits of Italy. And Mr. Coote informs us that, with few exceptions, no other estate in land was known in the provinces except this possessio. On this point the following extract is too interesting to be omitted:
Provincial land accordingly was granted both by the Republic and the Emperors as possession only, the dominion remaining in the Emperors or the Roman people, liable under that title to be resumed at will, and thus made a patient producer of revenue, tamely susceptible of any obligation whose imposition the necessity of the state might demand. But, for impositions of every kind, there existed in the Empire necessities of the sternest and most exactive form. The large standing armies ramified through the provinces the immense military staff and civil establishment therein, the formation and repair of the fortifications, the bridges, the aqueducts and the roads of the provinces, the general expenses of the Empire, and the private expenses of the Emperors, unfailingly created those necessities.
We have seen that in return for the usufruct of his land, the provincial possessor paid tributum or land tax. This impost would go far to provide for one set of expenses. But for the other expenses an equivalent provision would also have to be made, and, accordingly, the tributum was not the only condition upon which the estate was conceded. The other charges to which possessiones were liable by law were further conditions of the holding,