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CHAPTER VII: Of the Wittenagemote. - 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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Of the Wittenagemote.
By the gradual extension of intercourse between the different families or tribes of the Anglo-Saxons, and by the advancement of their political union, the inhabitants of larger territories were led to assemble for the regulation of their public concerns. As the freemen or allodial proprietors of a tything, of a hundred, and of a shire, determined the common affairs of their several districts, and were convened for that purpose by the tythingman, the hundreder, and the alderman; so the union of people belonging to different shires produced a greater assembly, consisting of all the allodial proprietors of a kingdom, and summoned by the king, the great military leader, and chief magistrate of the community. This national council received the appellation of the mickle-mote, or Wittenagemote.
During the continuance of the Heptarchy, each of the Saxon kingdoms had its own Wittenagemote; and there can be no doubt that<201> those national councils, though sometimes they might act in concert, were independent of one another. But when all the dominions of the Anglo-Saxons were reduced under one sovereign, the Wittenagemotes of each particular kingdom were dissolved, and there was formed a greater assembly of the same nature, whose authority extended over the whole English nation. The circumstances attending this important revolution are lost in obscurity; and= we have no means of discovering with certainty, whether it was produced by the mere influence of custom, or by an express regulation. It is probable that when Egbert had subdued the different states of the Heptarchy, the members of every separate Wittenagemote were invited to that great council of the monarchy which was then established; and that, in consequence of this, they would scarcely think it worth while to continue their attendance in those inferior meetings with which they had formerly been connected.
Of the particular class or description of persons who composed the Saxon Wittenagemotes, either in the respective kingdoms of the Heptarchy, or in the monarchy which<202> was formed from the union of these, the historians of that period have given us little or no direct information. But, from a variety of circumstances, it appears highly probable that those ancient assemblies were composed of all the members of the community who enjoyed landed estates in full property; that is, of all those who had the appellation of the Greater Thanes.
1. From the state of the country after the Saxon conquest, these persons, being independent with respect to their possessions, were masters of their own conduct, and were under no necessity of adopting public measures to which they had not consented, or upon which they had not at least had an opportunity of deliberating and giving their suffrage. Without their advice and concurrence, therefore, the king could seldom adventure to transact any important national business; and from the frequent practice of consulting them, they were gradually formed into a regular assembly, and became an established branch of the constitution. The rest of the inhabitants were either vassals, whose benefices, if not held precariously, were secured to them only for a<203> limited period; or peasants, whose condition was yet more dependent and servile. That the king should find it necessary or expedient to summon either of these classes of people to his great council, cannot easily be conceived. Their support and assistance might be expected, of course, in the execution of every measure which had been approved by their superiors; and therefore the voice of the allodial proprietors of land might, on every public emergency, be regarded as the voice of the nation.
2. The usual designations given, by ancient authors, to those who sat in the Saxon Wittenagemote, seem perfectly to coincide with this idea of its constituent members. The persons present in that assembly, when they happen to be particularly specified, are commonly said to be the bishops and abbots, together with the aldermen, the chiefs, the nobles, or the leading men of the kingdom.* These expressions are peculiarly applicable to the allodial proprietors of land. It is to be observed, that in<204> those times there was no such personal wealth as could create any authority; neither was there any distinction between what is now called a nobleman and a gentleman; but every individual, possessed of landed property, was a sort of leader, and maintained a degree of influence and rank corresponding to his fortune. The dignified clergy were distinguished by their profession, as the aldermen, or governors of shires, were by their office; for which reason, in speaking of the persons who composed the Wittenagemote, those two classes of men are frequently mentioned in particular, while the other proprietors of land are only pointed out by a general appellation expressive of their condition.
3. The same conclusion receives an additional support from the obvious analogy between the Wittenagemote, and the inferior meetings of the tythings, hundreds, and shires. These inferior meetings were plainly of the same nature with the great national council. The former deliberated upon the public affairs of the several districts to which they belonged: the latter, upon the public affairs of the whole nation. Both of these appear to have arisen<205> from the same circumstances; and probably the one was introduced in imitation of the other. It was because the chief magistrate of every inferior district had not, of himself, sufficient authority to execute public measures, that he was accustomed to call meetings of those inhabitants whose concurrence he thought was expedient; and it was upon the same account that the king was accustomed to assemble the great national council. There is great reason to believe, therefore, that all these meetings were constituted in the same manner; and, as it seems to be universally agreed, that the court of every tything, hundred, and shire, was composed of the respective proprietors of land in those districts; it can hardly be doubted that the constituent members of the Wittenagemote were the people of a similar description throughout the whole kingdom.
Lastly; The probability of this opinion is farther increased, when we examine the state of the national councils, which existed about the same time in the other European kingdoms. In all those kingdoms, the sovereign was under the necessity of transacting the more<206> important parts of the public business with the concurrence of a great proportion of his subjects; and the councils which he convened for this purpose appear, in every country, to have been composed of that part of the people who enjoyed a degree of influence over the rest of the community. Thus in France, the country of modern Europe in which the greatest number of particulars concerning the primitive government has been transmitted to us, the supreme concerns of the kingdom fell under the deliberations of the assemblies of the field of march; so called from the time of their principal meetings. From the accounts delivered by some of the French writers, these councils appear to have been composed of all the free men of the nation. According to others, they consisted of the leading men or nobility.* These accounts are, at bottom, not very different. In the early periods of the French monarchy, no person could be denominated free, unless he had the independent<207> property of land; and every landed proprietor was, in reality, a sort of chief or nobleman.†
In consequence of the disputes between the king and the people, that took place in England after the accession of the house of Stewart, there arose two political parties; the followers of which have maintained very opposite opinions concerning the constituent members of the Anglo-Saxon Wittenagemote. The supporters of the prerogative,1 in order to shew that the primitive government of England was an absolute monarchy, and that the privileges enjoyed by the people have all flowed from the voluntary grants and concessions of the sovereign, were led to assert that the original members of the Wittenagemote were persons under the king’s immediate influence and direction; from which it was concluded, that, so far from being intended to controul the exercise of his power, this council was called of his own free<208> choice, for the purpose merely of giving advice, and might of consequence be laid aside at pleasure. Hence it was contended, that beside the bishops and abbots, and the aldermen, both of which were supposed to be in the nomination of the crown, the other members of the Wittenagemote, who received the appellation of wites or wise men, were the lawyers or judges of the kingdom, who sat in the privy council, and were likewise in the appointment of the sovereign.*
Those writers, on the contrary, who defended the rights of the people, appear, from their eagerness in combating this opinion, to have been betrayed into the opposite extreme.2 In their endeavours to prove the independent authority of the ancient national council, they were induced to believe, that, from the beginning, it had been modelled upon the same plan as at present; and that it was originally composed of the nobility, the knights of shires, and the representatives of boroughs.† <209>
It requires no great sagacity or attention, at this day, to discover that both of these opinions are equally without foundation. They may be regarded as the delusions of prepossession and prejudice, propagated by political zeal, and nourished with the fondness and credulity of party attachment. Nothing can be more improbable, or even ridiculous, than to suppose that the lawyers or judges of England were, immediately after the settlement of the Anglo-Saxons, a body of men so considerable as to compose the principal part of the Wittenagemote, and, from a title peculiar to themselves, to fix the general denomination of that great assembly. In a very rude age, the business of pleading causes is never the object of a separate profession; and the deciding of lawsuits does not form a characteristical distinction in the chiefs or leading men, who are occasionally employed in that manner. We may as well suppose that, in the period of English history now under consideration, the Anglo-Saxon wites, or wisemen, were the physicians,<210> the surgeons, and apothecaries, or the mathematicians, the chymists, and astronomers of the country, as that they were the retainers of the law. We have surely no reason to believe that the latter were, by their employment, more distinguished from the rest of the community than the former.
Besides, if the wites are understood to be judges and lawyers, it will follow, that the ancient national assembly was often composed of that class of men exclusive of all others; for, in ancient records, it is frequently said, that laws were made, or public business was transacted, in a council of all the wites of the kingdom. But it is universally admitted, that the bishops and abbots, as well as the aldermen or governors of shires, were members of the Wittenagemote; from which it is a natural inference, that these two sets of people were comprehended under the general appellation of wites.
This may easily be explained. The term wite signifies, primarily, a man of valour, or military prowess; and hence a man of high rank, a nobleman.* It has been used, in a<211> secondary sense, to denote a wise man, from the usual connection, especially in a rude age, between military skill and experience or knowledge: in the same manner as an old man, or grey-headed man, is, according to the idiom of many languages, employed to signify a ruler or governor. As far as any conclusion, therefore, can be drawn from the appellation of Wittenagemote, or council of the wites, it is likely that this national assembly comprehended neither judges nor lawyers, considered in that capacity, but that it was composed of all the leading men, or proprietors of = landed estates; in which number the dignified clergy, and the governors of shires, if not particularly distinguished, were always understood to be included.†
The other opinion is not more consistent with the state of the country, and the condition of its inhabitants. It supposes that in England, soon after the settlement of the Anglo-Saxons, the lower ranks of men were so<212> independent of their superiors, as to form a separate branch of the community, invested with extensive political privileges. This opinion supposes, in particular, that the mercantile part of the inhabitants were become a distinct order of the people, and had risen to such opulence and authority as entitled them to claim a share in the conduct of national measures. There is not, however, the least shadow of probability in this supposition. Whatever improvements in trade and manufactures had been made in Britain, while it remained under the provincial government of Rome, these were almost entirely destroyed, by the convulsions which attended the Saxon conquest, and the subjection of a great part of the island to the dominion of a barbarous people. The arts which remained in the country after this great revolution, were reduced to such as procure the mere necessaries, or a few of the more simple conveniencies of life; and these arts were hardly the objects of a separate profession, but were practised occasionally by the inferior and servile part of the inhabitants. How is it possible to conceive, in such a state of manufactures, that the trading interest<213> would be enabled to assume the privilege of sending representatives to the great council of the nation? Even in those European states, whose advancement in arts was much earlier than that of the Anglo-Saxons, the formation of the trading towns into corporations was long posterior to the period we are now examining; yet this event must have preceded their acting in a political capacity, and consequently, their being represented in the national assembly.
But, independent of this consideration, which can hardly fail to produce conviction in such as are well acquainted with the early history of modern Europe; the fact in question may be determined in a manner still more decisive and satisfactory. If the representatives of boroughs, and the knights of shires, were constituent members of the ancient Wittenagemote, it is inconceivable that no traces of their existence should have been preserved in the annals of the Saxon princes. From the numerous meetings of that assembly, which are mentioned in many authentic records, and of which accounts are given by historians, who lived either in that period, or not long after it, a variety of expressions must have occurred, by<214> which the fact might be fully ascertained. Had it been a common practice for the towns and shires to choose representatives in the national assembly, is it possible to believe that this practice would never once have been alluded to upon any occasion whatever; or that, when mention is made so frequently, of the bishops and other dignified clergy, of the aldermen, of the wites, or leading men, who sat in this meeting, another part of its members, consisting of a class of people totally different from the former, would in no case, either from accident or design, have been pointed out in clear and unequivocal terms? It cannot be disputed, however, that, notwithstanding the most diligent search into our ancient histories and records, by men of great industry and learning,3 and eager to prove their hypothesis, not a single unambiguous expression, to that effect, has ever been found: and this observation is not limited to the time of the Heptarchy, but may be extended from the settlement of the Anglo-Saxons to the Norman conquest.
The attempts to prove that there were representatives of boroughs and shires in the Wittenagemote consist, for the most part, in<215> giving a forced interpretation to certain vague and general phrases, which happen to be employed by ancient authors, concerning the members of that assembly. The word alderman, for example, denoting a ruler, may be extended to the ruler, or chief magistrate, of a town, as well as of a shire; and therefore it is contended, that when the aldermen are mentioned in old records, as a constituent part of the national council, we are to understand the representatives of boroughs, as well as the governors of shires. It is, in like manner, asserted that, by chiefs, or leading men, and by wites, or wise men, the persons chosen to represent the commons are as properly described, as the nobility, or proprietors of land.*
According to this reasoning, the representatives of the commons, in every shape, and of every description, as they exist at present, though not separately mentioned, are included in almost every designation, applied to the ancient members of the Wittenagemote. How<216> far this mode of argument may be extended it is difficult to say. The aldermen and the wites have, each of them, the capacity of lord Peter’s bread, containing the quintessence of beef, mutton, veal, venison, partridge, plum-pudding, and custard.
In the accounts given by ancient authors of those that were called to the national council, mention is made, in some cases, not only of the bishops, abbots, aldermen, and chiefs, but also of the people; and the persons present are sometimes distinguished by the appellation of a great multitude.* <217>
But it cannot escape observation, that if this proves any thing, it will prove too much: it will prove that all the inhabitants, even those of the lowest rank, instead of sending representatives, were personally allowed to vote in the national council. By the appellation of the people it appears that, on some occasions, the lay-nobles are understood, in opposition to the dignified clergy; and on others, the ordinary proprietors of land, in opposition to those of distinguished opulence. There is, at the same time, good reason to believe, that the multitude, said to have been present at some of those meetings, was partly composed of mere spectators, who might possibly, by their acclamations, testify their approbation of the measures proposed.<218>
There is produced an instance of a Wittenagemote, held by one of the kings of Mercia, in the year 811, in which a royal charter is said to have been signed before “the Mercian chiefs, bishops, leaders, aldermen, procurators,4 and relations of the sovereign, together with Cuthred the king of Kent, and Suthred the king of the East Saxons, and all those who were present in the national council.”* As the members of the Wittenagemote had immemorially the privilege of appointing any person to act for them in their absence, it has been supposed, with great probability, that the procurators here mentioned were the proxies of absent nobles. In support of this conjecture, it is observed, that they are placed next in order to the nobles, and immediately before the king’s relations.† <219>
But although there is no ground for believing that the representatives of the commons were ever admitted into the Wittenagemote, there can be as little room to doubt that, when the different Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were first united under one monarch, it composed a very numerous assembly. As, upon the settlement of the Saxons in Britain, few persons were in a condition to occupy large estates, the number of allodial proprietors was proportionably increased. It is probable that the estates of the greater part of individuals extended to no more than a hide of land, or what could be cultivated by a single plough, and that this property constituted the primitive qualification for voting in the several Wittenagemotes of the Heptarchy. We hear of no particular limitation in this respect, either in the reign of Egbert, or in any preceding period.
It has been imagined by some authors, that the privilege of sitting in the Wittenagemote was originally confined to such as possessed forty hides of land; a property of great extent, which few individuals, it is natural to suppose, could have an opportunity of acquiring; whence it seems to be inferred, that a small part only<220> of the landed gentry were admitted into the councils of the sovereign.† This opinion is founded upon a passage in the register of Ely,5 which mentions a distinction in point of rank, enjoyed by such of the nobles as possessed estates amounting to forty hides of land. But this passage refers to the state of the kingdom in the reign of Edward the confessor,6 when property had been subjected to the most important revolutions, and government had widely deviated from its original institution. No inference can thence be drawn, concerning the primitive constitution of the national council; which must have arisen from the state of the inhabitants at the time when it was framed. How far the authority above mentioned is sufficient to justify that conclusion, with respect to the later periods of the Anglo-Saxon government, will fall to be afterwards examined. It is therefore highly probable that the Wittenagemote of the Anglo-Saxons was originally so constituted, as to admit a great proportion of the people into a share of its<221> deliberations: and it merits attention, that even such of the inhabitants as were excluded from this assembly, were either the slaves, or the tenants and vassals of those who sat in it. The former were thus placed under the protection of the latter. Men of inferior rank, though not formally represented in the national council, enjoyed, therefore, a degree of security from the influence of their master or superior, who had an interest to defend them from every injustice but his own, and whose jealousy was ever watchful to guard them from any oppression of the sovereign.
The powers exercised by the Saxon Wittenagemote7 were such as might be expected from the independent situation, and the opulence of its members. It possessed a similar authority over the whole kingdom, to that of any tything, hundred, or shire, over its own subordinate division. In general, the Wittenagemote seems to have taken under its cognizance all those branches of government, which were of sufficient importance to merit its attention, and which, at the same time, could be directed, in consistency with the de-<222>lays arising from the deliberations of a numerous assembly.
1. It exercised, first of all, the power of providing for the defence of the kingdom, and of determining the public military operations.* This was, in all probability, the primary object in calling that assembly; and for which, according to the most ancient custom, it was regularly held twice in the year; in the spring when the seed-time was over, to resolve upon such expeditions as were thought expedient; and, in the autumn, before the harvest began, to divide the plunder. A people so rude as the early Saxons had little other business of importance but what consisted in the sowing and reaping of their grain; and were generally disposed to employ the greatest part of the summer, either in private rapine, or in hostilities against a foreign enemy. In the other kingdoms of Europe, the same seasons were observed for the meetings of the national council. We are informed that, in France, the vernal meetings were originally in the be-<223>ginning of March; but that afterwards, from greater attention, it should seem, to the cares of husbandry, they were delayed till the first of May.*
It may here be worth while to remark, that the power of declaring peace and war, which belonged indisputably to the Saxon Wittenagemote, affords complete evidence that its members were allodial proprietors of land; for, upon the supposition of their being the vassals of the crown, they must have been bound, when called upon, to attend the sovereign in war, and consequently their consent would not have been requisite in undertaking any military enterprize.
The same authority, by which military enterprizes were determined, made likewise a provision for carrying them into execution. As from the circumstances of a rude nation, every man was in a condition to furnish a number of soldiers proportioned to the extent of his property; it was a general law in the Saxon government, that the proprietors of land should be rated, for military service, ac-<224>cording to the number of hides which they possessed; and if any person refused to contribute his proportion, he was liable to forfeit his possessions, and to be deprived of the public protection.
The erecting and repairing forts and castles, as a defence against the sudden incursions of an enemy, and the maintaining a free communication, by roads and bridges, between the different parts of the kingdom, were objects of police which, in the same view, attracted the notice of the Wittenagemote, and for which individuals were assessed in proportion to their wealth. The magnificent works of this nature, which were executed by the Romans, in all the provinces of their empire, contributed much to facilitate the progress of their arms, and to establish their dominion over the conquered people. From their example, it is likely that the Saxons, in Britain, as well as the other nations, who settled upon the continent of Europe, were incited to improvements of this nature which they would not otherwise have thought= of.
2. When the members of the Wittenagemote had been assembled, and when they had<225> settled every point relating to their martial operations, their attention was frequently turned to other objects of national concern. Whatever inconveniencies had been felt from the manner of conducting public business, whatever abuses had been committed in the administration of government; these were canvassed; and regulations were made for preventing the like evils for the future. It is not disputed that the Wittenagemote exercised a legislative power over the whole kingdom; and, of consequence, the power of repealing and altering the regulations introduced by the meetings of any particular tything, hundred or shire.* The imposition of taxes, the most important appendage of legislation, was likewise undoubtedly assumed by this great assembly, so far as taxes existed in that early period; but these were in a great measure unknown; the ordinary expence of government being defrayed out of the private estate of the king, and from the various emoluments annexed to the regal dignity.<226>
3. To this legislative power was added that of directing and controlling the exercise of the royal prerogative. Thus the demesnes of the crown were considered as not entirely the private estate of the king; but as in some measure the property of the public, which fell to be managed and disposed of under the public inspection. The alienation, therefore, of crown-lands, though proceeding in the name of the king, was not effectual without the concurrence of the wites; and hence royal charters were frequently granted in the Wittenagemote, and subscribed by a number of its members.†
The coining of money, in order to save the trouble of weighing and assaying the metals which pass in exchange, was a privilege early assumed by the king in the respective kingdoms of Europe; and even by the nobles or great proprietors of land in the territories under their jurisdiction. In the exercise of this privilege, great frauds had been committed on<227> many occasions, by debasing the coin below its usual standard; for preventing which abuses, the Wittenagemote, in England, appears to have superintended the behaviour both of the king and of the nobles, and to have regulated the coinage throughout the whole kingdom.*
The members of this great council had no less authority in the government of the church than in that of the state. That they were early accustomed to take cognizance of the established religion, appears from what is related of Edwin king of Northumberland,8 who being solicited to embrace Christianity, is said to have answered, that in a matter of such importance he would be determined by the advice of his wites and princes. In the Wittenagemote, all ecclesiastical laws were made; the king’s nomination of bishops and other dignified clergy was confirmed; and their number, as well as the extent of their livings, was regulated.
The same national council gave sanction to the establishment of monasteries, and of the revenues with which they were endowed.† <228>
Not contented with directing the exercise of the executive power, the nobles and wites assumed, in extraordinary cases, the privilege of calling the sovereign to account for the abuses of his administration. Of this a remarkable instance occurs in the reign of Segebert,9 a king of the western Saxons; who, for his tyrannical behaviour, and after he had treated with contempt the remonstrances of his people, was, by a general assembly of the nation, expelled [from] the kingdom; and another prince of the royal blood was elected in his place. This event is said to have happened in the year 755.†
Lastly, when the members of the Wittenagemote had met to deliberate upon public business, they were accustomed also to hear complaints concerning such great quarrels and acts of injustice, as could not be effectually redressed by inferior judicatories, and to endeavour, by their superior authority, either to reconcile the parties, or to decide their differences. By frequent interpositions of this nature, that great council was at length formed into a regular court of justice; and became<229> the supreme tribunal of the kingdom; in which appeals from the courts of each particular shire, as well as original actions between the inhabitants of different shires, were finally determined.<230>
[* ]Principes, optimates, magnates, proceres [[aldermen, chiefs, great lords, nobles, &c. See Spelman on Parliaments—Dr. Brady, Answer to Petyt—and the series of great councils before the conquest. Tyrrell’s Bibliotheca Politica, Dial. 6. Millar cites, among others, the discussions of the Wittenagemote’s composition in Robert Brady’s Introduction to the Old English History (London, 1684), 7–10, and James Tyrrell’s Bibliotheca Politica: Or, an Enquiry into the Ancient Constitution of the English Government (London, 1694). See 2nd edition (London, 1727), dialogue 6, 271–81.]]
[* ]See Observations sur l’Hist. de France par M. l’Abbé Mably—and Memoires Historiques du Gouvernement de France, par M. le Compte de Boulainvilliers.
[† ]Hinc haud aegre colligere est, unde nostri appellarent parliamenta procerum totius regni conventus.—Du Cange v. Parliamentum. [[“From this it is not difficult to gather from what cause our countrymen called the assemblies of the nobles from the whole kingdom ‘parliaments.’” Charles du Fresne, Sieur du Cange, Glossarium ad Scriptores Mediae et Infimae Latinitatis, 6 vols. (Paris, 1766), 6:175. The Salic laws are said to have been made with the consent of the proceres or the optimates.—And even charters from the crown usually bear, that they were granted cum consensu fidelium nostrum,—or in nostra et procerum presentia. Mably, ibid. With the agreement of our liegemen; in our presence and that of our nobles. Abbé de Mably, Observations sur l’histoire de France in Oeuvres complètes de l’Abbé de Mably (Toulouse, 1793), 1:270.]]
[1. ]The reference is to those who aligned themselves with the royalist cause in struggles between the Crown and Parliament in the seventeenth century. Millar associates Hume with this royalist or Tory view. In fact, Hume makes very much the same point regarding later partisanship and its distorting effect on the historiography of the Saxons. See HE, 1:163–64, 174.
[* ]Hume’s Hist. of England, Appendix to Anglo-Saxon period.
[2. ]The reference is to those who took the parliamentary side in these struggles: hence, broadly to the Whig party and their controversialists and historians—here identified as Robert Atkyns (author of The Power, Jurisdiction, and Priviledge of Parliament, 1689); William Petyt (author of The Antient Rights of the Commons of England Asserted, 1680); James Tyrrell (author of the Bibliotheca Politica, 1694, and of The General History of England, Both Ecclesiastical and Civil, 1696–1704); and George, Lord Lyttelton (author of the History of the Life of King Henry the Second, vols. 1–4, 1769).
[† ]Sir Robert Atkyns’ Power, Jurisdiction, and Privileges of Parliament,—Petyt, Rights of the Commons asserted.—Jani Anglorum facies nova.—Argumentum Antinormanicum.—Tyrrell’s Bibliotheca Politica.—Lyttelton’s Hist.
[* ]Somner’s Sax. Dict. v. Wita.
[† ]By a law of king Ina, it is enacted, that if any person fought in the house of an alderman, or of any illustrious wite, he should pay a fine of sixty shillings. See Wilkin’s Anglo-Saxonica, Leges Inae, c. 6.
[3. ]In the Bibliotheca Politica, 1694 (dialogue 6, 281–307), James Tyrrell cites Matthew Paris and William of Malmesbury, among others, as providing arguments for the view that boroughs and shires had representatives; on the other hand, John Selden, Sir Edward Coke, William Lambarde, Sir Henry Spelman, and Robert Brady are credited with the opposite view.
[* ]Tyrrell’s Bibliotheca Politica, Dial. 6.—It seems to be the opinion of this author, however, that the existence of the knights of shires, in the Saxon Wittenagemote, is more doubtful than that of the representatives of boroughs.
[* ]Thus in the record of a Wittenagemote held by Ethelbert in 605, it is said, “Convocato igitur communi concilio tamcleri quam populi.” [[“Having therefore summoned a joint council of the clergy as well as of the people.” Council of King Ethelbert in 605 in Sir Henry Spelman, Concilia, Decreta, Leges, Constitutiones, in re ecclesiarum orbis Britannici (London, 1639), 126–27.
[4. ]Procurator: a caretaker or official.
[* ]Merciorum Optimates, Episcopos, Principes, Comites,Procuratores,meosque propinquos, nec non Cuthredum regem Cantuariorum, atque Suthredum regem Orient. Saxon. cum omnibus qui testes nostris synodalibus conciliabulis aderant. [Annals of Winchelcomb.]
[† ]Gurdon’s History of the Parliament.—In a charter of Athelstan, the procurators are also mentioned. But this charter was not granted in the Wittenagemote. [Ibid.]
[† ]Dugdale’s preface to his Baronage. Hume’s Hist. of England, appendix to Anglo-Saxon period.
[5. ]Ely: an abbey and bishopric in Cambridgeshire founded in the seventh century.
[6. ]Edward the Confessor (r. 1042–66).
[7. ]For Hume’s consideration of similar issues of Saxon government and manners, see his appendix 1 in HE, 160–85. For Millar’s following reference to Nathaniel Bacon, see An Historical and Political Discourse of the Laws and Government of England. Collected from Some Manuscript Notes of John Selden, 4th ed. (London, 1739), 36.
[* ]Selden’s Notes on Gov. of England, collected by Nath. Bacon, part i. chap. 20. and the authorities referred to.
[* ]This change is said to have been made about the beginning of the second race of the French kings.
[* ]See the preface to most of the collections of Saxon laws published by Wilkins.
[† ]Of this privilege of the Wittenagemote there occurs a remarkable instance in the reign of Egbert, in 836. Spelm. concil. t. i. p. 340.
[* ]Wilkins leges Athelstani.
[8. ]Edwin, king of Northumbria (r. 616–33): converted to Christianity in 627.
[† ]Selden’s Notes collected by N. Bacon. part 1. ch. 20. and the authorities to which this author refers.
[9. ]Segebert, king of Wessex (r. 756–57).
[† ]Saxon chronicle.