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INTRODUCTION - John Millar, An Historical View of the English Government 
An Historical View of the English Government, From the Settlement of the Saxons in Britain to the Revolution in 1688, in four volumes, edited by Mark Salber Philips and Dale R. Smith, introduction by Mark Salber Philips (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006).
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The great series of events in the history of England may be divided into three parts:1 the first, extending from the settlement of the Saxons in Britain to the Norman conquest; the second, from the reign of William the Conqueror to the accession of the house of Stewart; the third, from the reign of James the First to the present time. The important changes exhibited in the state of the country, and in the situation of its inhabitants, appear, like a sort of natural boundaries, to mark out these different periods, and to recommend them as objects of distinct and separate examination.
The first period contains the conquest of England by the northern barbarians, the division of the country under the different chiefs by whom that people were conducted, the subsequent union of those principalities under one sovereign, and the course of public transactions under the Saxon and Danish monarchs.
The reign of William the Conqueror, while<2> it put an end to the ancient line of kings, introduced into England a multitude of foreigners, who obtained extensive landed possessions, and spread with great rapidity the manners and customs of a nation more civilized and improved than the English. The inhabitants were thus excited to a quicker advancement in the common arts of life, at the same time that the nation, by acquiring continental connections, was involved in more extensive military operations.
By the union of the crowns of England and Scotland,2 upon the accession of the house of Stewart, the animosities and dissensions, with all their troublesome consequences, which had so long subsisted between the two countries, were effectually suppressed. By the improvement of manufactures, and the introduction of a considerable foreign trade, England began, in a short time, to establish her maritime power, and to assume a higher rank in the scale of Europe.
The same periods are also distinguished by remarkable variations in the form of government.
Upon the settlement of the Saxons in Bri-<3>tain, we behold a number of rude families or tribes feebly united together, and little accustomed either to subordination among themselves, or to the authority of a monarch. During the reigns of the Anglo-Saxon princes, we discover the effects produced by the gradual acquisition of property; in consequence of which some individuals were advanced to the possession of great estates, and others, who had been less fortunate, were obliged to shelter themselves under the protection of their more opulent neighbours. Political power, the usual attendant of property,3 was thus gradually accumulated in the hands of a few great leaders, or nobles; and the government became more and more aristocratical.
When the advances of the country in improvement had opened a wider intercourse, and produced a more intimate union, between the different parts of the kingdom, the accumulated property in the hands of the king became the source of greater influence than the divided property possessed by the nobles. The prerogatives of the former, in a course of time, were therefore gradually augmented; and the privileges of the latter suffered a pro-<4>portionable diminution. From the reign of William the Conqueror in England, we may date the first exaltation of the crown, which, under his successors of the Plantagenet and Tudor families, continued to rise in splendor and authority.4
About the commencement of the reign of James the First, great alterations began to appear in the political state of the nation. Commerce and manufactures, by diffusing a spirit of liberty among the great body of the people, by changing the system of national defence, and by increasing the necessary expences of government, gave rise to those disputes, which, after various turns of fortune, were at last happily terminated by the establishment of a popular government.
With reference to that distribution of property, in the early part of our history, which goes under the name of the feudal system, the constitution established in the first of these periods, may be called the feudal aristocracy; that in the second, the feudal monarchy; and that which took place in the third, may be called the commercial government.
Similar periods to those which have now<5> been pointed out in the English history, may also be distinguished in the history of all those kingdoms on the continent of Europe, which were established upon the ruins of the Roman Empire, and in which the people have since become opulent and polished. Thus the reign of Hugh Capet in France, and of Otho the Great in Germany, correspond to that of William the Conqueror in England; as those of Lewis XIII. and Ferdinand II.5 in the two former countries, were analogous to that of James the First, in the latter.
In the following treatise, it is proposed to take a separate view of these periods of the English history, and to examine the chief differences of the political system in each of them. As the government which we enjoy at present has not been formed at once, but has grown to maturity in a course of ages, it is necessary, in order to have a full view of the circumstances from which it has proceeded, that we should survey with attention the successive changes through which it has passed. In a disquisition of this nature, it is hoped that, by considering events in the order in which they happened, the causes of every change will be<6> more easily unfolded, and may be pointed out with greater simplicity. As the subject, however, is of great extent, I shall endeavour to avoid prolixity, either from quoting authorities and adducing proofs in matters sufficiently evident, or from intermixing any detail of facts not intimately connected with the history of our constitution.
With respect to the Saxon period, which comes first in order, many writers appear to have looked upon it as too remote, and as affording a prospect too barren and rude, to deserve any particular examination. But it ought to be considered, that the foundations of our present constitution were laid in that early period; and that, without examining the principles upon which it is founded, we cannot form a just opinion concerning the nature of the superstructure. To trace the origin of a system so singular in its nature may, at the same time, be regarded as an object of rational curiosity. The British government is the only one in the annals of mankind that has aimed at the diffusion of liberty through a multitude of people, spread over a wide extent of territory. The ancient republics of Greece and<7> Rome comprehended little more than the police of a single city;6 and in these a great proportion of the people, so far from being admitted to a share in the government, were, by the institution of domestic slavery, excluded from the common rights of men. The modern republics of Italy, not to mention the very unequal privileges which they bestow upon different individuals, are inconsiderable in their extent. The same observation is applicable to the government of the Swiss cantons. In the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands, the government can hardly be considered as more extensive; for, notwithstanding the confederacy by which they are connected, every particular province, and even every single town of any consequence, belonging to each, having the exclusive power of making or consenting to its own regulations, forms in reality an independent political system. By what fortunate concurrence of events has a more extensive plan of civil freedom been established in this island? Was it by accident, or by design, or from the influence of peculiar situation, that our Saxon forefathers, originally distinguished as the most ferocious<8> of all those barbarians who invaded the Roman provinces, have been enabled to embrace more comprehensive notions of liberty, and to sow the seeds of those political institutions which have been productive of such prosperity and happiness to a great and populous empire? To these questions it is hoped that, in the sequel, a satisfactory answer will be given.<9>
OF THE ENGLISH GOVERNMENT, FROM THE SETTLEMENT OF THE SAXONS IN BRITAIN TO THE REIGN OF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR.
[1. ]Millar identifies three broad periods of English history: (1) the Saxon Period (fourth century–1066); (2) the Norman Conquest to the accession of James I (1066–1603); (3)= the Union of the Crowns to the time of authorship (1603–1801). Subsequently, he identifies these three periods with three successive constitutional forms: feudal aristocracy, feudal monarchy, and commercial government.
[2. ]The accession of James VI, king of Scotland (r. 1567–1625), to the English throne in 1603 united the crowns of both countries in one person for the first time.
[3. ]The idea that ultimately political power followed possession of property was an important theme in the political writings of James Harrington. On Harrington, see p. 569, note 35.
[4. ]William I, the Conqueror: king of England (r. 1066–69), acceded to the throne after defeating Harold II (r. 1066) at the Battle of Hastings. William’s reign marks the establishment of the House of Normandy in England (1066–1154). The successor dynasties were the Plantagenet (1159–1399) and Tudor (1485–1603).
[5. ]Hugh Capet (r. 987–96): founder of the Capetian dynasty in France (987–1328); Otto I, the Great, king of Germany (r. 936–73) and Holy Roman Emperor (962–73); Louis XIII, king of France (r. 1610–43); Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor (r. 1619–37).
[6. ]Police in this sense means civil order.