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CHAPTER II: Anglo-Saxon Law - Sir Frederick Pollock, The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I, vol. 1 
The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I. Reprint of 2nd edition, with a Select Bibliography and Notes by Professor S.F. Milsom. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2010). Vol. 1.
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Select bibliography and notes by Professor S. F. C. Milsom, published here as an appendix, was originally published in Cambridge University Press’s 1968 reissue of The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I. Reprinted by permission of Cambridge University Press.
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Scope of this chapter.This book is concerned with Anglo-Saxon legal antiquities, but only so far as they are connected with, and tend to throw light upon, the subsequent history of the laws of England, and the scope of the present chapter is limited by that purpose. Much of our information about the Anglo-Saxon laws and customs, especially as regards landholding, is so fragmentary and obscure that the only hope of understanding it is to work back to it from the fuller evidence of Norman and even later times. It would be outside our undertaking to deal with problems of this kind.1
Imperfection of written records of early Germanic law.The habit of preserving some written record of all affairs of importance is a modern one in the north and west of Europe. But it is so prevalent and so much bound up with our daily habits that we have almost forgotten how much of the world’s business, even in communities by no means barbarous, has been carried on without it. And the student of early laws and institutions, although the fact is constantly thrust upon him, can hardly accept it without a sort of continuing surprise. This brings with it a temptation of some practical danger, that of overrating both the trustworthiness of written documents and the importance of the matters they deal with as compared with other things for which the direct authority of documents is wanting. The danger is a specially besetting one in the early history of English law; and that inquirer is fortunate who is not beguiled into positive error by the desire of making his statements appear less imperfect. In truth, the manners, dress, and dialects of our ancestors before the Norman Conquest are far better known to us than their laws. Historical inquiry must be subject, in the field of law, to peculiar and inevitable difficulties. In most other cases the evidence, whether full or scanty, is clear so far as it goes. Arms, ornaments, miniatures, tell their own story. But written laws and legal documents, being written for present use and not for the purpose of enlightening future historians, assume knowledge on the reader’s part of an indefinite mass of received custom and practice. They are intelligible only when they are taken as part of a whole which they commonly give us little help to conceive. It may even happen that we do not know whether a particular document or class of documents represents the normal course of affairs, or was committed to writing for the very reason that the transaction was exceptional. Even our modern law is found perplexing, for reasons of this kind, not only by foreigners, but by Englishmen who are not lawyers.
We cannot expect, then, that the extant collections of Anglo-Saxon laws should give us anything like a complete view of the legal or judicial institutions of the time. Our Germanic ancestors were no great penmen, and we know that the reduction of any part of their customary laws to writing was in the first place due to foreign influence. Princes who had forsaken heathendom under the guidance of Roman clerks made haste, according to their lights, to imitate the ways of imperial and Christian Rome.2
Although English princes issued written dooms with the advice of their wise men at intervals during nearly five centuries, it seems all but certain that none of them did so with the intention of constructing a complete body of law. The very slight and inconspicuous part which procedure takes in the written Anglo-Saxon laws is enough to show that they are mere superstructures on a much larger base of custom. All they do is to regulate and amend in details now this branch of customary law, now another. In short, their relation to the laws and customs of the country as a whole is not unlike that which Acts of Parliament continue to bear in our own day to the indefinite mass of the common law.
Anglo-Saxon dooms and custumals.Our knowledge of Anglo-Saxon law rests, so far as positive evidence goes, on several classes of documents which supplement one another to some extent, but are still far from giving a complete view. We have in the first place the considerable series of laws and ordinances of Saxon and English princes, beginning with those of Æthelbert of Kent, well known to general history as Augustine’s convert, which are of about the end of the sixth century. The laws of Cnut may be said to close the list. Then from the century which follows the Norman Conquest we have various attempts to state the Old English law. These belong to the second class of documents, namely, compilations of customs and formulas which are not known ever to have had any positive authority, but appear to have been put together with a view to practical use, or at least to preserve the memory of things which had been in practice, and which the writer hoped to see in practice again. Perhaps our most important witness of this kind is the tract or custumal called Rectitudines singularum personarum.3 Some of the so-called laws are merely semi-official or private compilations, but their formal profession of an authority they really had not makes no difference to their value as evidence of what the compilers understood the customary law to have been. To some extent we can check them by their repetition of matter that occurs in genuine Anglo-Saxon laws of earlier dates. Apocryphal documents of this kind are by no means confined to England, nor, in English history, to the period before the Conquest. Some examples from the thirteenth century have found their way into the worshipful company of the Statutes of the Realm among the “statutes of uncertain time.” It has been the work of more than one generation of scholars to detect their true character, nor indeed is the work yet wholly done. From the existence and apparent, sometimes real, importance of such writings and compilations as we have now mentioned there has arisen the established usage of including them, together with genuine legislation, under the common heading of “Anglo-Saxon laws.” As for the deliberate fables of later apocryphal authorities, the “Mirror of Justices” being the chief and flagrant example, they belong not to the Anglo-Saxon but to a much later period of English law. For the more part they are not even false history; they are speculation or satire.
Charters.Another kind of contemporary writings affords us most valuable evidence for the limited field of law and usage which those writings cover. The field, however, is even more limited than at first sight it appears to be. We mean the charters or “land-books” which record the munificence of princes to religious houses or to their followers, or in some cases the administration and disposition of domains thus acquired. Along with these we have to reckon the extant Anglo-Saxon wills, few in number as compared with charters properly so called, but of capital importance in fixing and illustrating some points. It was Kemble’s great achievement to make the way plain to the appreciation and use of this class of evidences by his Codex Diplomaticus. We have to express opinions more or less widely different from Kemble’s on several matters, and therefore think it well to say at once that no one who has felt the difference between genius and industrious good intentions can ever differ with Kemble lightly or without regret. Kemble’s work often requires correction; but if Kemble’s work had not been, there would be nothing to correct.4
Chronicles etc.Then we have incidental notices of Anglo-Saxon legal matters in chronicles and other writings, of which the value for this purpose must be judged by the usual canons of coincidence or nearness in point of time, the writer’s means of access to contemporary witness or continuous tradition not otherwise preserved, his general trustworthiness in things more easily verified, and so forth. Except for certain passages of Bede, we do not think that the general literary evidence, so to call it, is remarkable either in quantity or in quality. Such as we have is, as might be expected, of social and economic interest in the first place, and throws a rather indirect light upon the legal aspect of Anglo-Saxon affairs.
Anglo-Norman documents.Lastly, we have legal and official documents of the Anglo-Norman time, and foremost among them Domesday Book, which expressly or by implication tell us much of the state of England immediately before the Norman Conquest. Great as is the value of their evidence, it is no easy matter for a modern reader to learn to use it. These documents, royal and other inquests and what else, were composed for definite practical uses. And many of the points on which our curiosity is most active, and finds itself most baffled, were either common knowledge to the persons for whose use the documents were intended, or were not relevant to the purpose in hand. In the former case no more information was desired, in the latter none at all. Thus the Anglo-Norman documents raise problems of their own which must themselves be solved before we can use the results as a key to what lies even one generation behind them.
Survey of Anglo-Saxon legal institutions.On the whole the state of English law before the Conquest presents a great deal of obscurity to a modern inquirer, not so much for actual lack of materials as for want of any sure clue to their right interpretation at a certain number of critical points. Nevertheless we cannot trace the history of our laws during the two centuries that followed the Conquest without having some general notions of the earlier period; and we must endeavour to obtain a view that may suffice for this purpose. It would be a barren task to apply the refined classification of modern systems to the dooms of Ine and Alfred or the more ambitious definitions of the Leges Henrici Primi. We shall take the main topics rather in their archaic order of importance. First comes the condition of persons; next, the establishment of courts, and the process of justice; then the rules applicable to breaches of the peace, wrongs and offences, and finally the law of property, so far as usage had been officially defined and enforced, or new modes of dealing with property introduced. The origin and development of purely political institutions has been purposely excluded from our scope.
Personal conditions: lordship.As regards personal condition, we find the radical distinction, universal in ancient society, between the freeman and the slave. But in the earliest English authorities, nay, in our earliest accounts of Germanic society, we do not find it in the clear-cut simplicity of Roman law. There is a great gulf between the lowest of freemen and the slave; but there are also differences of rank and degrees of independence among freemen, which already prepare the way for the complexities of medieval society. Some freemen are lords, others are dependents or followers of lords. We have nothing to show the origin or antiquity of this division; we know that it was the immemorial custom of Germanic chiefs to surround themselves with a band of personal followers, the comites described by Tacitus, and we may suppose that imitation or repetition of this custom led to the relation of lord and man being formally recognized as a necessary part of public order. We know, moreover, that as early as the first half of the tenth century the division had become exhaustive. An ordinance of Æthelstan treats a “lordless man” as a suspicious if not dangerous person; if he has not a lord who will answer for him, his kindred must find him one; if they fail in this, he may be dealt with (to use the nearest modern terms) as a rogue and vagabond.5 The term “lord” is applied to the king, in a more eminent and extensive but at the same time in a looser sense, with reference to all men owing or professing allegiance to him.6 Kings were glad to draw to their own use, if they might, the feeling of personal attachment that belonged to lordship in the proper sense, and at a later time the greater lords may now and again have sought to emulate the king’s general power. In any case this pervading division of free persons into lords and men, together with the king’s position as general over-lord, combined at a later time with the prevalence of dependent land tenures to form the more elaborate arrangements and theories of medieval feudalism. It does not seem possible either to assign any time in English history when some freemen did not hold land from their personal lords, or to assign the time when this became a normal state of things. In the latter part of the ninth century there was already a considerable class of freemen bound to work on the lands of others, for an ordinance of Alfred fixes the holidays that are to be allowed them; and we can hardly doubt that this work was incident to their own tenure.7 At all events dependent landholding appears to have been common in the century before the Norman Conquest. It was the work of the succeeding century to establish the theory that all land must be “held of” some one as a fixed principle of English law, and to give to the conditions of tenure as distinct from the personal status of the tenant an importance which soon became preponderant, and had much to do with the ultimate extinction of personal servitude under the Tudor dynasty.8
The family.Dependence on a lord was not the only check on the individual freedom of a freeborn man. Anglo-Saxon polity preserved, even down to the Norman Conquest, many traces of a time when kinship was the strongest of all bonds. Such a stage of society, we hardly need add, is not confined to any one region of the world or any one race of men. In its domestic aspect it may take the form of the joint family or household which, in various stages of resistance to modern tendencies and on various scales of magnitude, is still an integral part of Hindu and South Slavonic life. When it puts on the face of strife between hostile kindreds, it is shown in the war of tribal factions, and more specifically in the blood-feud. A man’s kindred are his avengers; and, as it is their right and honour to avenge him, so it is their duty to make amends for his misdeeds, or else maintain his cause in fight. Step by step, as the power of the State waxes, the self-centred and self-helping autonomy of the kindred wanes. Private feud is controlled, regulated, put, one may say, into legal harness; the avenging and the protecting clan of the slain and the slayer are made pledges and auxiliaries of public justice. In England the legalized blood-feud expired almost within living memory, when the criminal procedure by way of “appeal” was finally abolished. We have to conceive, then, of the kindred not as an artificial body or corporation to which the State allows authority over its members in order that it may be answerable for them, but as an element of the State not yielding precedence to the State itself. There is a constant tendency to conflict between the old customs of the family and the newer laws of the State; the family preserves archaic habits and claims which clash at every turn with the development of a law-abiding commonwealth of the modern type. In the England of the tenth century,9 we find that a powerful kindred may still be a danger to public order, and that the power of three shires may be called out to bring an offending member of it to justice. At the same time the family was utilized by the growing institutions of the State, so far as was found possible. We have seen that a lordless man’s kinsfolk might be called upon to find him a lord. In other ways too the kindred was dealt with as collectively responsible for its members.10 We need not however regard the kindred as a defined body like a tribe or clan, indeed this would not stand with the fact that the burden of making and the duty of exacting compensation ran on the mother’s side as well as the father’s. A father and son, or two half-brothers, would for the purposes of the blood-feud have some of their kindred in common, but by no means all.
The legal importance of the kindred continues to be recognized in the very latest Anglo-Saxon custumals, though some details that we find on the subject in the so-called laws of Henry I. fall under grave suspicion, not merely of an antiquary’s pedantic exaggeration, but of deliberate copying from other Germanic law-texts. It is probable that a man could abjure his kindred, and that the oath used for the purpose included an express renunciation of any future rights of inheritance. We do not know whether this was at all a common practice, or whether any symbolic ceremonies like those of the Salic law were or ever had been required in England.11
Ranks: ceorl, eorl, gesíð.Further, we find distinctions of rank among freemen which, though not amounting to fundamental differences of condition, and not always rigidly fixed, had more or less definite legal incidents. From the earliest times a certain preeminence is accorded (as among almost all Germanic people)12 to men of noble birth. The ordinary freeman is a “ceorl,” churl (there is no trace before the Norman Conquest of the modern degradation of the word); the noble by birth is an “eorl.” This last word came later, under Danish influence, to denote a specific office of state, and our present “earl” goes back to it in that sense. The Latin equivalent comes got specialized in much the same way. But such was not its ancient meaning. Special relations to the king’s person or service produced another and somewhat different classification. “Gesíð” was the earliest English equivalent, in practical as well as literal meaning, of comes as employed by Tacitus; it signified a well-born man attached to the king by the general duty of warlike service, though not necessarily holding any special office about his person. It is, however, a common poetic word, and it is not confined to men. It was current in Ine’s time but already obsolete for practical purposes in Alfred’s; latterly it appears to have implied hereditary rank and considerable landed possessions. The element of noble birth is emphasized by the fuller and commoner form “gesíðcund.”
Thegn.The official term of rank which we find in use in and after Alfred’s time is “thegn”13 (þegen, in Latin usually minister). Originally a thegn is a household officer of some great man, eminently and especially of the king. From the tenth century to the Conquest thegnship is not an office unless described by some specific addition (horsþegen, discþegen, and the like) showing what the office was. It is a social condition above that of the churl, carrying with it both privileges and customary duties. The “king’s thegns,” those who are in fact attached to the king’s person and service, are specially distinguished. We may perhaps roughly compare the thegns of the later Anglo-Saxon monarchy to the country gentlemen of modern times who are in the commission of the peace and serve on the grand jury. But we must remember that the thegn had a definite legal rank. His wergild, for example, the fixed sum with which his death must be atoned for to his kindred, or which he might in some cases have to pay for his own misdoing, was six times as great as a common man’s; and his oath weighed as much more in the curious contest of asseverations, quite different from anything we now understand by evidence, by which early Germanic lawsuits were decided. It is stated in more than one old document that a thegn’s rights might be claimed by the owner of five hides (at the normal value of the hide, 600 acres) of land, a church and belfry, a “burgh-gate-seat” (which may imply a private jurisdiction, or may only signify a town house), and a special place in the king’s hall. The like right is ascribed to a merchant who has thrice crossed “the wide sea” (the North Sea as opposed to the Channel) at his own charges.14 This may be suspected, in the absence of confirmation, of being merely the expression of what, in the writer’s opinion, an enlightened English king ought to have done to encourage trade, still it is not improbable. We have no reason to reject the tradition about the five hides, which is borne out by some later evidence. But this gives us no warrant in any case for denying that a thegn might have less than five hides of land, or asserting that he would forfeit his rank if he lost the means of supporting it on the usual scale. However, these details are really of no importance in the general history of our later law, for they left no visible mark on the structure of Anglo-Norman aristocracy.15
Other distinctions.The last remark applies to certain other distinctions which are mentioned in our authorities as well known, but never distinctly explained. We read of “twelf-hynd” and “twy-hynd” men, apparently so called from their wergild being twelve hundred and two hundred shillings respectively. There was also an intermediate class of “six-hynd” men. It would seem that the “twelf-hynd” men were thegns, and the “twy-hynd” man might or might not be. But these things perhaps had no more practical interest for Glanvill, certainly no more for Bracton, than they have for us.
Privileges of clergy.In like manner, the privileges of clerks in orders, whether of secular or regular life, do not call for close investigation here. Orders were regarded as conferring not only freedom where any doubt had existed, but a kind of nobility. There was a special scale of wergild for the clergy; but it was a question whether a priest who was in fact of noble birth should not be atoned for with the wergild appropriate to his birth, if it exceeded that which belonged to his ecclesiastical rank, and some held that for the purpose of wergild only the man’s rank by birth should be considered.
It is well known that the superior clergy took (and with good cause) a large part in legislation and the direction of justice, as well as in general government. Probably we owe it to them that Anglo-Saxon law has left us any written evidences at all. But the really active and important part of the clergy in the formation of English law begins only with the clear separation of ecclesiastical and civil authority after the Conquest.
We now have to speak of the unfree class.
Slavery.Slavery, personal slavery, and not merely serfdom or villeinage consisting mainly in attachment to the soil, existed, and was fully recognized, in England until the twelfth century. We have no means of knowing with any exactness the number of slaves, either in itself, or as compared with the free population. But the recorded manumissions would alone suffice to prove that the number was large. Moreover, we know, not only that slaves were bought and sold, but that a real slave-trade was carried on from English ports. This abuse was increased in the evil times that set in with the Danish invasions. Raids of heathen Northmen, while they relaxed social order and encouraged crime, brought wealthy slave-buyers, who would not ask many questions, to the unscrupulous trader’s hand. But slaves were exported from England much earlier. Selling a man beyond the seas occurs in the Kentish laws as an alternative for capital punishment;16 and one obscure passage seems to relate to the offence of kidnapping freeborn men.17 Ine’s dooms forbade the men of Wessex to sell a countryman beyond seas, even if he were really a slave or justly condemned to slavery.18
Slave-trade.Selling Christian men beyond seas, and specially into bondage to heathen, is forbidden by an ordinance of Æthelred, repeated almost word for word in Cnut’s laws.19 Wulfstan, Archbishop of York, who probably took an active part in the legislation of Æthelred, denounced the practice in his homilies,20 and also complained that men’s thrall-right was narrowed. This is significant as pointing to a more humane doctrine, whatever the practice may have been, than that of the earlier Roman law. It seems that even the thrall had personal rights of some sort, though we are not able with our present information to specify them. Towards the end of the eleventh century the slave trade from Bristol to Ireland (where the Danes were then in power) called forth the righteous indignation of another Wulfstan, the Bishop of Worcester, who held his place through the Conquest. He went to Bristol in person, and succeeded in putting down the scandal.21 Its continued existence till that time is further attested by the prohibition of Æthelred and Cnut being yet again repeated in the laws attributed to William the Conqueror.22
Manumission.Freemen sometimes enslaved themselves in times of distress as the only means of subsistence; manumission of such persons after the need was past would be deemed a specially meritorious work, if not a duty.23 Sometimes well-to-do people bought slaves, and immediately afterwards freed them for the good of their own souls, or the soul of some ancestor. At a later time we meet with formal sales by the lord to a third person in trust (as we should now say) to manumit the serf.24 The Anglo-Saxon cases do not appear to be of this kind. Sometimes a serf “bought himself” free. We may suppose that a freedman was generally required or expected to take his place among the free dependants of his former master; and the express licence to the freedman to choose his own lord, which is occasionally met with, tends to show that this was the rule. The lord’s rights over the freedman’s family were not affected if the freedman left the domain.25 There is nothing to suggest that freed-men were treated as a distinct class in any other way. What has just been said implies that a bondman might acquire, and not unfrequently did acquire, money of his own; and, in fact, an ordinance of Alfred expressly makes the Wednesday in the four ember weeks a free day for him, and declares his earnings to be at his own disposal.26 Moreover, even the earliest written laws constantly assume that a “theow” might be able to pay fines for public offences.
Slavery and serfage.On the whole the evidence seems to show that serfdom was much more of a personal bondage and less involved with the occupation of particular land before the Norman Conquest than after; in short that it approached, though it only approached, the slavery of the Roman law. Once, and only once, in the earliest of our Anglo-Saxon texts,27 we find mention in Kent, under the name of lœt, of the half-free class of persons called litus and other like names in continental documents. To all appearance there had ceased to be any such class in England before the time of Alfred: it is therefore needless to discuss their condition or origin.
There are traces of some kind of public authority having been required for the owner of a serf to make him free as regards third persons; but from almost the earliest Christian times manumission at an altar had full effect.28 In such cases a written record was commonly preserved in the later Anglo-Saxon period at any rate, but it does not appear to have been necessary or to have been what we should now call an operative instrument. This kind of manumission disappears after the Conquest, and it was long disputed whether a freed bondman might not be objected to as a witness or oath-helper.29
Courts and justice.We now turn to judicial institutions. An Anglo-Saxon court, whether of public or private justice, was not surrounded with such visible majesty of the law as in our own time, nor furnished with any obvious means of compelling obedience. It is the feebleness of executive power that explains the large space occupied in archaic law by provisions for the conduct of suits when parties make default. In like manner the solemn prohibition of taking the law into one’s own hands without having demanded one’s right in the proper court shows that law is only just becoming the rule of life. Such provisions occur as early as the dooms of Ine of Wessex,30 and perhaps preserve the tradition of a time when there was no jurisdiction save by consent of the parties. Probably the public courts were always held in the open air; there is no mention of churches being used for this purpose, a practice which was expressly forbidden in various parts of the continent when court houses were built. Private courts were held, when practicable, in the house of the lord having the jurisdiction, as is shown by the name halimote or hall-moot. This name may indeed have been given to a lord’s court by way of designed contrast with the open-air hundred and county courts. The manor-house itself is still known as a court in many places in the west and south-east of England.31Halimote is not known, however, to occur before the Norman Conquest.
So far as we can say that there was any regular judicial system in Anglo-Saxon law, it was of a highly archaic type. We find indeed a clear enough distinction between public offences and private wrongs. Liability to a public fine or, in grave cases, corporal or capital punishment, may concur with liability to make redress to a person wronged or slain, or to his kindred, or to incur his feud in default. But neither these ideas nor their appropriate terms are confused at any time. On the other hand, there is no perceptible difference of authorities or procedure in civil and criminal matters until, within a century before the Conquest, we find certain of the graver public offences reserved in a special manner for the king’s jurisdiction.
The staple matter of judicial proceedings was of a rude and simple kind. In so far as we can trust the written laws, the only topics of general importance were manslaying, wounding, and cattle-stealing. So frequent was the last-named practice that it was by no means easy for a man, who was minded to buy cattle honestly, to be sure that he was not buying stolen beasts, and the Anglo-Saxon dooms are full of elaborate precautions on this head, to which we shall return presently.
Procedure.As to procedure, the forms were sometimes complicated, always stiff and unbending. Mistakes in form were probably fatal at every stage. Trial of questions of fact, in anything like the modern sense, was unknown. Archaic rules of evidence make no attempt to apply any measure of probability to individual cases.32 Oath was the primary mode of proof, an oath going not to the truth of specific fact, but to the justice of the claim or defence as a whole. The number of persons required to swear varied according to the nature of the case and the rank of the persons concerned. Inasmuch as the oath, if duly made, was conclusive, what we now call the burden of proof was rather a benefit than otherwise under ancient Germanic procedure. The process of clearing oneself by the full performance of the oath which the law required in the particular case is that which later medieval authorities call “making one’s law,” facere legem. It remained possible, in certain cases, down to quite modern times. An accused person who failed in his oath, by not having the proper number of oath-helpers33 prepared to swear, or who was already disqualified from clearing himself by oath, had to go to one of the forms of ordeal. The ordeal of hot water appears in Ine’s laws though until lately it was concealed from our view by the misreading of one letter in the text.34 Trial by combat was to all appearance unknown to the Anglo-Saxon procedure,35 though it was formally sanctioned on the continent by Gundobad, king of the Burgundians, at the beginning of the sixth century and is found in the laws of nearly all the German tribes.36 An apparently genuine ordinance of William the Conqueror enables Englishmen to make use of trial by battle in their lawsuits with Normans, but expressly allows them to decline it. This is strong to prove that it was not an English institution in any form.37 Permitted or justified private war, of which we do find considerable traces in England,38 is quite a different matter. The Anglo-Norman judicial combat belongs to a perfectly regular and regulated course of proceeding, is as strictly controlled as any other part of it, and has no less strictly defined legal consequences.
A “fore-oath,” distinct from the definitive oath of proof, was required of the party commencing a suit, unless the fact complained of were manifest; thus a fore-oath was needless if a man sued for wounding and showed the wound to the court. A defendant who was of evil repute might be driven by the fore-oath alone to the alternative of a threefold oath or the ordeal.39
As regards the constitution of Anglo-Saxon courts, our direct evidence is of the scantiest. We have to supplement it with indications derived from the Norman and later times.
Union of temporal and spiritual jurisdiction.One well-known peculiarity of the Anglo-Saxon period is that secular and ecclesiastical courts were not sharply separated, and the two jurisdictions were hardly distinguished. The bishop sat in the county court; the church claimed for him a large share in the direction of even secular justice,40 and the claim was fully allowed by princes who could not be charged with weakness.41 Probably the bishop was often the only member of the court who possessed any learning or any systematic training in public affairs.
The king’s justice not ordinary.The most general Anglo-Saxon term for a court or assembly empowered to do justice is gemót. In this word is included all authority of the kind from the king and his witan42 downwards. Folcgemót appears to mean any public court whatever, greater or less. The king has judicial functions, but they are very far removed from our modern way of regarding the king as the fountain of justice. His business is not to see justice done in his name in an ordinary course, but to exercise a special and reserved power which a man must not invoke unless he has failed to get his cause heard in the jurisdiction of his own hundred.43 Such failure of justice might happen, not from ill-will or corruption on the part of any public officer, but from a powerful lord protecting offenders who were his men.44
In such cases the king might be invoked to put forth his power. It is obvious that the process was barely distinguishable from that of combating an open rebellion.45
After the Norman Conquest, as time went on, the king’s justice became organized and regular, and superseded nearly all the functions of the ancient county and hundred courts. But the king’s power to do justice of an extraordinary kind was far from being abandoned. The great constructive work of Henry II. and Edward I. made it less important for a time. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries it showed its vitality in the hands of the king’s chancellors, and became the root of the modern system of equity.46 Down to our own time that system preserved the marks of its origin in the peculiar character of the compulsion exercised by courts of equitable jurisdiction. Disobedience to their process and decrees was a direct and special contempt of the king’s authority, and a “commission of rebellion” might issue against a defendant making default in a chancery suit, however widely remote its subject-matter might be from the public affairs of the kingdom.47
Jurisdiction of witan.We have many examples, notwithstanding the repeated ordinances forbidding men to seek the king’s justice except after failure to obtain right elsewhere, of the witan exercising an original jurisdiction in matters of disputed claims to book-land.48 This may be explained in more than one way. Book-land was (as we shall see) a special form of property which only the king could create, and which, as a rule, he created with the consent and witness of his wise men. Moreover, one or both parties to such suits were often bishops or the heads of great houses of religion, and thus the cause might be regarded as an ecclesiastical matter fit to be dealt with by a synod rather than by temporal authority, both parties doubtless consenting to the jurisdiction.
The charters that inform us of what was done, especially in 803 and 825, at the synods or synodal councils of Clovesho,49 that “famous place” whose situation is now matter of mere conjecture,50 leave no doubt that on these occasions, at least, the same assembly which is called a synod also acted as the witan. The secular and spiritual functions of these great meetings might have been discriminated by lay members not taking part in the ecclesiastical business; but it is by no means certain that they were.51 In any case it is highly probable that the prohibitions above cited were never meant to apply to the great men of the kingdom, or royal foundations, or the king’s immediate followers.
County and hundred courts.The ordinary Anglo-Saxon courts of public justice were the county court and the hundred court, of which the county court was appointed to be held twice a year, the hundred every four weeks.52 Poor and rich men alike were entitled to have right done to them, though the need of emphasizing this elementary point of law in the third quarter of the tenth century suggests that the fact was often otherwise.53
Thus the hundred court was the judicial unit, so to speak, for ordinary affairs. We have no evidence that any lesser public court existed. It is quite possible that some sort of township meeting was held for the regulation of the common-field husbandry which prevailed in most parts of England: and the total absence of any written record of such meetings, or (so far as we know) allusion to them, hardly makes the fact less probable. But we have no ground whatever for concluding that the township-moot, if that were its name, had any properly judicial functions. “Mark-moot,” which has been supposed to be the name of a primary court, appears rather to mean a court held on the marches of adjacent counties or hundreds, or perhaps on the boundary dyke itself.54
The ordinances which tell us of the times of meeting appointed for the county and hundred courts tell us nothing whatever of their procedure. It may be taken as certain, however, that they had no efficient mode of compelling the attendance of parties or enforcing their orders. A man who refused to do justice to others according to the law could only be put out of the protection of the law, save in the cases which were grave enough to call for a special expedition against him. Outlawry, developed in the Danish period as a definite part of English legal process, remained such until our own time. All this is thoroughly characteristic of archaic legal systems in general. Nothing in it is peculiarly English, not much is peculiarly Germanic.
Private jurisdiction.Thus far we have spoken only of public jurisdiction. But we know that after the Norman Conquest England was covered with the private jurisdictions of lords of various degrees, from the king himself downwards, holding courts on their lands at which their tenants were entitled to seek justice in their own local affairs, and bound to attend that justice might be done to their fellows. “Court baron” is now the most usual technical name for a court of this kind, but it is a comparatively modern name. Further, we know that private jurisdiction existed on the continent much earlier, and that it existed in England in the early part of the eleventh century. It is a question not free from doubt whether the institution was imported from the continent not long before that time, or on the contrary had been known in England a good while before, perhaps as early as the date of our earliest Anglo-Saxon laws and charters, notwithstanding that it is not expressly and directly mentioned in documents of the earlier period. For our present purpose it is enough to be sure that private courts were well established at the date of the Conquest, and had been increasing in number and power for some time.55
Subject-matter of Anglo-Saxon justice. Proceeding to the subject-matters of Anglo-Saxon jurisdiction, we find what may be called the usual archaic features. The only substantive rules that are at all fully set forth have to do with offences and wrongs, mostly those which are of a violent kind, and with theft, mostly cattle-lifting. Except so far as it is involved in the law of theft, the law of property is almost entirely left in the region of unwritten custom and local usage. The law of contract is rudimentary, so rudimentary as to be barely distinguishable from the law of property. In fact people who have no system of credit and very little foreign trade, and who do nearly all their business in person and by word of mouth with neighbours whom they know, have not much occasion for a law of contract. It is not our purpose to consider in this place the relation of Anglo-Saxon customs and ordinances to those of Germanic nations on the continent; to inquire, for example, why the Salic or the Lombard laws should present striking resemblances even in detail to the laws of Alfred or Cnut, but provide with equal or greater minuteness for other similar cases on which the Anglo-Saxon authorities are silent. In the period of antiquarian compilation which set in after the Norman Conquest, and of which the so-called laws of Henry I. are the most conspicuous product, we see not only imitation of the continental collections, but sometimes express reference to their rules.56 But this kind of reference, at the hands of a compiler who could also quote the Theodosian code,57 throws no light whatever on the possibilities of continental influence at an earlier time. It is highly probable that Alfred and his successors had learned persons about them who were more or less acquainted with Frankish legislation if not with that of remoter kingdoms. But it suffices to know that, in its general features, Anglo-Saxon law is not only archaic, but offers an especially pure type of Germanic archaism. We are therefore warranted in supposing, where English authority fails, that the English usages of the Anglo-Saxon period were generally like the earliest corresponding ones of which evidence can be found on the continent.
The king’s peace.Preservation of the peace and punishment of offences were dealt with, in England as elsewhere, partly under the customary jurisdiction of the local courts, partly by the special authority of the king. In England that authority gradually superseded all others. All criminal offences have long been said to be committed against the king’s peace; and this phrase, along with “the king’s highway,” has passed into common use as a kind of ornament of speech, without any clear sense of its historical meaning. The two phrases are, indeed, intimately connected; they come from the time when the king’s protection was not universal but particular, when the king’s peace was not for all men or all places, and the king’s highway was in a special manner protected by it. Breach of the king’s peace was an act of personal disobedience, and a much graver matter than an ordinary breach of public order; it made the wrong-doer the king’s enemy. The notion of the king’s peace appears to have had two distinct origins. These were, first, the special sanctity of the king’s house, which may be regarded as differing only in degree from that which Germanic usage attached everywhere to the homestead of a freeman; and, secondly, the special protection of the king’s attendants and servants, and other persons whom he thought fit to place on the same footing. In the later Anglo-Saxon period the king’s particular protection is called grið as distinct from the more general word frið. Although the proper name is of comparatively recent introduction58 and of Scandinavian extraction, the thing seems to answer to the Frankish sermo or verbum regis, which is as old as the Salic law.59 The rapid extension of the king’s peace till it becomes, after the Norman Conquest, the normal and general safeguard of public order, seems peculiarly English.60 On the continent the king appears at an early time to have been recognized as protector of the general peace, besides having power to grant special protection or peace of a higher order.61
The various peaces.It is not clear whether there was any fixed name for the general peace which was protected only by the hundred court and the ealdorman. Very possibly the medieval usage by which an inferior court was said to be in the peace of the lord who held the court may go back in some form to the earliest time when there were any set forms of justice; and there is some evidence that in the early part of the tenth century men spoke of the peace of the witan.62 We have not found English authority for any such term as folk-peace, which has sometimes been used in imitation of German writers. No light is thrown on early Anglo-Saxon ideas or methods of keeping the peace by the provision that every man shall be in a hundred and tithing, for it first appears in this definite form in the laws of Cnut,63 and both its history and meaning are disputable. This, however, is a matter of administrative mechanism rather than of the law itself. We shall have a word to say about this matter when hereafter we speak of frankpledge.
Feud and atonement.In Anglo-Saxon as well as in other Germanic laws we find that the idea of wrong to a person or his kindred is still primary, and that of offence against the common weal secondary, even in the gravest cases. Only by degrees did the modern principles prevail, that the members of the community must be content with the remedies afforded them by law, and must not seek private vengeance, and that, on the other hand, public offences cannot be remitted or compounded by private bargain.
Personal injury is in the first place a cause of feud, of private war between the kindreds of the wrong-doer and of the person wronged. This must be carefully distinguished from a right of specific retaliation, of which there are no traces in Germanic law.64 But the feud may be appeased by the acceptance of a composition. Some kind of arbitration was probably resorted to from a very early time to fix the amount. The next stage is a scale of compensation fixed by custom or enactment for death or minor injuries, which may be graduated according to the rank of the person injured. Such a scale may well exist for a time without any positive duty of the kindred to accept the composition it offers. It may serve only the purpose of saving disputes as to the amount proper to be paid when the parties are disposed to make peace. But this naturally leads to the kindred being first expected by public opinion and then required by public authority not to pursue the feud if the proper composition is forthcoming, except in a few extreme cases which also finally disappear. At the same time, the wrong done to an individual extends beyond his own family; it is a wrong to the community of which he is a member; and thus the wrong-doer may be regarded as a public enemy. Such expressions as “outlaw against all the people” in the Anglo-Saxon laws preserve this point of view.65 The conception of an offence done to the state in its corporate person, or (as in our own system) as represented by the king, is of later growth.
Tariff of compositions.Absolute chronology has very little to do with the stage of growth or decay in which archaic institutions, and this one in particular, may be found in different countries and times. The Homeric poems show us the blood-feud in full force in cases of manslaying (there is little or nothing about wounding), tempered by ransom or composition which appears to be settled by agreement or arbitration in each case. In the classical period of Greek history this has wholly disappeared. But in Iceland, as late as the time of the Norman Conquest of England, we find a state of society which takes us back to Homer. Manslayings and blood-feuds are constant, and the semi-judicial arbitration of wise men, though often invoked, is but imperfectly successful in staying breaches of the peace and reconciling adversaries. A man’s life has its price, but otherwise there is not even any recognized scale of compositions. In the Germanic laws both of England and of the mainland we find a much more settled rule some centuries earlier. Full scales of composition are established. A freeman’s life has a regular value set upon it, called wergild, literally “man’s price” or “man-payment,”66 or oftener in English documents wer simply; moreover, for injuries to the person short of death there is an elaborate tariff. The modern practice of assessing damages, though familiar to Roman law in the later republican period, is unknown to early Germanic law, nor were there in Germanic procedure any means of applying the idea if it had existed. Composition must generally be accepted if offered; private war is lawful only when the adversary obstinately refuses to do right. In that case indeed, as we learn from a well-known ordinance of Alfred,67 the power of the ealdorman, and of the king at need, may be called in if the plaintiff is not strong enough by himself; in other words the contumacious denier of justice may be dealt with as an enemy of the commonwealth. At a somewhat later time we find the acceptance and payment of compositions enforced by putting the obligation between the parties under the special sanction of the king’s peace.68 But it was at least theoretically possible, down to the middle of the tenth century, for a manslayer to elect to bear the feud of the kindred.69 His own kindred, however, might avoid any share in the feud by disclaiming him; any of them who maintained him after this, as well as any of the avenging kinsfolk who meddled with any but the actual wrong-doer, was deemed a foe to the king (the strongest form of expressing outlawry) and forfeited all his property.
Wer, wíte, bót.We find the public and private aspects of injurious acts pretty clearly distinguished by the Anglo-Saxon terms. Wer, as we have said, is the value set on a man’s life, increasing with his rank. For many purposes it could be a burden as well as a benefit; the amount of a man’s own wer was often the measure of the fine to be paid for his offences against public order. Wíte is the usual word for a penal fine payable to the king or to some other public authority. Bót (the modern German Busse) is a more general word, including compensation of any kind. Some of the gravest offences, especially against the king and his peace, are said to be bótleás, “bootless”; that is, the offender is not entitled to redeem himself at all, and is at the king’s mercy. The distinction between wer and wíte must be very ancient; it corresponds to what is told us of German custom by Tacitus.70
Punishment.The only punishments, in the proper sense, generally applicable to freemen, were money fines, and death in the extreme cases where redemption with a money fine was not allowed. A credible tradition preserved in the prologue to Alfred’s laws tells us that after the conversion of the English to Christianity the bishops and wise-men “for the mild-heartedness sake that Christ taught” sanctioned the redemption by fine of offences less than that of treason against one’s lord.71 Mutilation and other corporal punishments are prescribed (but with the alternative of redemption by a heavy fine) for false accusers, for habitual criminals, and for persons of evil repute who have failed in the ordeal.72
Imprisonment occurs in the Anglo-Saxon laws only as a means of temporary security. Slaves were liable to capital and other corporal punishment, and generally without redemption. The details have no material bearing on the general history of the law, and may be left to students of semi-barbarous manners. Outlawry, at first a declaration of war by the commonwealth against an offending member, became a regular means of compelling submission to the authority of the courts, as in form it continued so to be down to modern times.73 In criminal proceedings, however, it was used as a substantive penalty for violent resistance to a legal process or persistent contempt of court.74 Before the Conquest, outlawry involved not only forfeiture of goods to the king, but liability to be killed with impunity. It was no offence to the king to kill his enemy, and the kindred might not claim the wergild.75 It was thought, indeed, down to the latter part of the sixteenth century, that the same reason applied to persons under the penalties appointed by the statutes of praemunire, which expressly included being put out of the king’s protection.76
Difficulties in compelling submission to courts.It would appear that great difficulty was found both in obtaining specific evidence of offences, and in compelling accused and suspected persons to submit themselves to justice, and pay their fines if convicted. This may serve to explain the severe provisions of the later Anglo-Saxon period against a kind of persons described as “frequently accused,” “of no credit.”77 One who had been several times charged (with theft, it seems we must understand), and kept away from three courts running, might be pursued and arrested as a thief, and treated as an outlaw if he failed to give security to answer his accusers.78 A man of evil repute is already half condemned, and if he evades justice it is all but conclusive proof of guilt. In communities where an honest man’s neighbours knew pretty well what he was doing every day and most of the day, this probably did not work much injustice. And English criminal procedure still held to this point of view two centuries after the Conquest. It may be said to linger even now-a-days in the theoretical power of grand juries to present offences of their own knowledge.
Maintenance of offenders by great men.Several passages, and those from a period of comparatively settled government, show that great men, whose followers had committed crimes, often harboured and maintained them in open defiance of common right.79 If it was needful for Æthelstan, the victor of Brunanburh, to make ordinances against lawlessness of this kind, we can only think that weaker princes left it without remedy, not because the evil was less in their days, but because they had no power to amend it. The same thing was common enough in the Scottish highlands as late as the early part of the eighteenth century.80
Why no trial by battle.Putting together these indications of a feeble executive power, we are apt to think that the absence of trial by battle from Anglo-Saxon procedure can best be explained by the persistence of extra-judicial fighting. Gundobad of Burgundy, and other Germanic rulers after him, tempted their subjects into court by a kind of compromise. It is hardly possible to suppose that their ostensible reason of avoiding perjury was the real one. Rather it was understood, though it could not be officially expressed, that Burgundian and Lombard81 freemen would submit to being forbidden to fight out of court on the terms of being allowed to fight under legal sanction, thus combining the physical joy of battle with the intellectual luxury of strictly formal procedure. It seems plausible to suppose that the mechanism of Anglo-Saxon government was not commonly strong enough to accomplish even so much. All this, however, is conjectural. There is no reason to doubt that among some Germanic tribes battle was recognized as a form of ordeal from very ancient times; we have no means of solving the ulterior question why those tribes did not include the ancestors of the Anglo-Saxons.
Special offences treason.Offences specially dealt with in various parts of the Anglo-Saxon laws are treason, homicide, wounding and assault (which, however, if committed by freemen, are more wrongs than crimes), and theft. Treason to one’s lord, especially to the king, is a capital crime. And the essence of the crime already consists in compassing or imagining the king’s death, to use the later language of Edward III.’s Parliament.82 The like appears in other Germanic documents.83 It seems probable, however, that this does not represent any original Germanic tradition, but is borrowed from the Roman law of maiestas, of which one main head was plotting against the lives of the chief magistrates.84 No part of the Roman law was more likely to be imitated by the conquerors of Roman territory and provinces; and when an idea first appears in England in Alfred’s time, there is no difficulty whatever in supposing it imported from the continent. Not that rulers exercising undefined powers in a rude state of society needed the Lex Julia to teach them the importance of putting down conspiracies at the earliest possible stage. We are now speaking of the formal enunciation of the rule. On the other hand, the close association of treason against the king with treason against one’s personal lord who is not the king is eminently Germanic. This was preserved in the “petty treason” of medieval and modern criminal law.
The crime of treason was unatonable,85 and the charge had to be repelled by an oath adequate in number of oath-helpers, and perhaps in solemnity, to the wergild of the king or other lord as the case might be. If the accused could not clear himself by oath, and was driven to ordeal, he had to submit to the threefold ordeal,86 that is, the hot iron was of three pounds’ weight instead of one pound, or the arm had to be plunged elbow-deep instead of wrist-deep into the boiling water.87
Homicide.Homicide appears in the Anglo-Saxon dooms as a matter for composition in the ordinary case of slaying in open quarrel. There are additional public penalties in aggravated cases, as where a man is slain in the king’s presence or otherwise in breach of the king’s peace. And a special application of the king’s protection is made in favour of strangers; a matter of some importance when we remember that before the time of Alfred a Mercian was a stranger in Kent, and a Wessex man in Mercia. Two-thirds of a slain stranger’s wer goes to the king. We find a rudiment of the modern distinction between murder and manslaughter, but the line is drawn not between wilful and other killing, but between killing openly and in secret. It would seem indeed that “morð” at one time meant only killing by poison or witchcraft. The offence of “morð” was unatonable, and the murderer, if ascertained, might be delivered over to the dead man’s kindred.88
Justifiable homicide.An outlaw might, as we have seen, be slain with impunity; and it was not only lawful but meritorious to kill a thief flying from justice.89 An adulterer taken in flagrante delicto by the woman’s lawful husband, father, brother, or son, might be killed without risk of blood-feud. In like manner homicide was excusable when the slayer was fighting in defence of his lord, or of a man whose lord he was, or of his kinsman; but a man must in no case fight against his own lord.90 A man who slew a thief (or, it would seem, any one) was expected to declare the fact without delay, otherwise the dead man’s kindred might clear his fame by their oath and require the slayer to pay wergild as for a true man.91 We do not find any formalities prescribed in the genuine dooms. The safest course would no doubt be to report to the first credible person met with, and to the first accessible person having any sort of authority.92
Personal injuries: misadventure.Injuries and assaults to the person were dealt with by a minute scale of fixed compensations, which appears, though much abridged, as late as the Anglo-Norman compilations. But rules of this kind are not heard of in practice after the Conquest. It is worth while to notice that the contumelious outrage of binding a freeman, or shaving his head in derision, or shaving off his beard, was visited with heavier fines than any but the gravest wounds.93 In the modern common law compensation for insult, as distinct from actual bodily hurt, is arrived at only in a somewhat indirect fashion, by giving juries a free hand in the measure of damages. Accidental injuries are provided for in a certain number of particular cases. A man carrying a spear should carry it level on his shoulder in order to be free from blame if another runs upon the point. If the point is three fingers or more above the butt (so as to bring the point to the level of a man’s face), he will be liable to pay wer in case of a fatal accident, and all the more if the point were in front (so that he could have seen the other’s danger).94 This is rational enough; but in the case of harm ensuing even by pure accident from a distinct voluntary act, we find that the actor, however innocent his intention, is liable, and that the question of negligence is not considered at all. Legis enim est qui inscienter peccat, scienter emendet, says the compiler of the so-called laws of Henry I., translating what was doubtless an English proverb.95 There is no earlier English authority, but such is known to have been the principle of all old Germanic laws. It seems to have extended, or to have been thought by some to extend, even to harm done by a stranger with weapons which the owner bad left unguarded. Cnut’s laws expressly declare, as if it were at least an unsettled point, that only the actual wrong-doer shall be liable if the owner can clear himself of having any part or counsel in the mischief.96 Borrowing or stealing another man’s weapons, or getting them by force or fraud from an armourer who had them in charge for repair, seems to have been a rather common way of obscuring the evidence of manslaying, or making false evidence; and it was a thing that might well be done in collusion. One man would be ready to swear with his oath-helpers, “I did not kill him,” the other, with equal confidence, “No weapon of mine killed him.”97 And in consequence, it would seem, of the general suspicion attaching to every one possibly concerned, an armourer was bound to answer to the owner at all hazards (unless it were agreed to the contrary) for the safe custody and return of weapons entrusted to him,98 perhaps even for their return free from any charge of having been unlawfully used.99 Such a charge might have involved the forfeiture of the weapon until quite modern times.
Archaic principle of responsibility for accidents.The extreme difficulty of getting any proof of intention, or of its absence, in archaic procedure is, perhaps, the best explanation of rules of this kind. At all events, they not only are characteristic of early German law, but they have left their mark on the developed common law to a notable extent. In modern times the principle of general responsibility for pure accidents arising from one’s lawful act has been disallowed in the United States, and more lately in England. But, as regards the duty of safely keeping in cattle, and in the case of persons collecting or dealing with things deemed of a specially dangerous kind, the old Germanic law is still the law of this land and of the greater part of North America.
Fire, which English law has regarded for several centuries as a specially dangerous thing in this sense, and which is dealt with in some of the early Germanic dooms, is not mentioned for this purpose in our documents.100 Liability for damage done by dogs is on the other hand rather elaborately dealt with by a scale of compensation increasing after the first bite.101
There are traces of the idea which underlay the Roman noxal actions, and which crops up in the medieval rule of deodand, that where a man is killed by accident, the immediate cause of death, be it animate or inanimate, is to be handed over to the avenger of blood as a guilty thing. When men were at work together in a forest, and by misadventure one let a tree fall on another, which killed him, the tree belonged to the dead man’s kinsfolk if they took it away within thirty days.102 This kind of accident is still quite well known in the forest countries of Europe, as witness the rude memorial pictures, entreating the passer’s prayers, that may be seen in any Tyrolese valley. Also a man whose beast wounded another might surrender the beast as an alternative for money compensation.103
Theft.Theft, especially of cattle and horses, appears to have been by far the commonest and most troublesome of offences. There is a solitary and obscure reference to “stolen flesh” in the laws of Ine.104 Perhaps this is to meet the case of a thief driving cattle a certain distance and then slaughtering them, and hiding the flesh apart from the hides and horns, which would be more easily identified. If we are surprised by the severity with which our ancestors treated theft, we have only to look at the prevalence of horse-stealing in the less settled parts of the western American states and territories in our own time, and the revival of archaic methods for its abatement. Collusion with thieves on the part of seemingly honest folk appears to have been thought quite possible: Cnut required every man above twelve years to swear that he would be neither a thief nor an accomplice with thieves,105 and special penalties for letting a thief escape, or failing to raise, or follow, the hue and cry, point in the same direction.106 Slavery was a recognized penalty when the thief was unable to make restitution. This, if it stood alone, might be regarded as handing over the debtor’s person by way of compensation rather than a punishment in the modern sense. But moreover the offender’s whole family might lose their freedom as accomplices. The harshness of this rule was somewhat relaxed if the thief’s wife could clear herself by oath from having had any part in stolen cattle which had been found in his house.107 But as late as the early part of the eleventh century, Wulfstan’s homily108 complains that “cradle-children” are unjustly involved in the slavery of their parents. All this, however, belongs to social antiquities rather than to legal history. The common law of theft is wholly post-Norman. Nor is it needful to dwell on the Anglo-Saxon treatment of special and aggravated forms of theft, such as sacrilege.109 Stealing on Sunday, in Lent, and on Christmas, Easter, or Ascension Day, was punishable with a double fine by the old Wessex law.110
Property.In a modern system of law we expect a large portion of the whole to be concerned with the rules of acquiring, holding, and transferring property. We look for distinctions between land and movables, between sale and gift, between the acts completed among living persons and dispositions to take effect by way of inheritance. If the word property be extended to include rights created by contract, we may say that we contemplate under this head by far the greater and weightier part of the whole body of legal rules affecting citizens in their private relations. But if we came with such expectations to examine laws and customs so archaic as the Anglo-Saxon, we should be singularly disappointed. Here the law of property is customary and unwritten, and no definite statement of it is to be found anywhere, while a law of contract can hardly be said to exist, and, so far as it does exist, is an insignificant appurtenance to the law of property. But we must remember that even Hale and Blackstone, long after that view had ceased to be appropriate, regarded contract only as a means of acquiring ownership or possession. Yet more than this; it is hardly correct to say that Anglo-Saxon customs or any Germanic customs, deal with ownership at all. What modern lawyers call ownership or property, the dominium of the Roman system, is not recognized in early Germanic ideas. Possession, not ownership, is the leading conception; it is possession that has to be defended or recovered, and to possess without dispute, or by judicial award after a dispute real or feigned, is the only sure foundation of title and end of strife. A right to possess, distinct from actual possession, must be admitted if there is any rule of judicial redress at all; but it is only through the conception of that specific right that ownership finds any place in pure Germanic law. Those who have studied the modern learning of possessory rights and remedies are aware that our common law has never really abandoned this point of view.
Sale and other contracts.Movable property, in Anglo-Saxon law, seems for all practical purposes to be synonymous with cattle. Not that there was no other valuable property; but arms, jewels, and the like, must with rare exceptions have been in the constant personal custody of the owners or their immediate attendants. Our documents leave us in complete ignorance of whatever rules existed. We may assume that actual delivery was the only known mode of transfer between living persons; that the acceptance of earnest-money and giving of faith and pledges were customary means of binding a bargain; and that contracts in writing were not in use. There is no evidence of any regular process of enforcing contracts, but no doubt promises of any special importance were commonly made by oath, with the purpose and result of putting them under the sanction of the church. There is great reason to believe that everywhere or almost everywhere a religious sanction of promises has preceded the secular one,111 and that honourable obligation has been more effective than might be supposed in aiding or supplementing the imperfections of legality.112 Apparently the earliest form of civil obligation in German law was the duty of paying wergild. Payment, when it could not be made forthwith, was secured by pledges, who no doubt were originally hostages. Gradually the giving of security sinks into the background, and the deferred duty of payment is transformed into a promise to pay. But our Anglo-Saxon authorities are of the very scantiest. We find the composition of a feud secured by giving pledges and the payment by instalments regulated;113 and in Alfred’s laws there is mention of a solemn kind of promise called “god-borh”; if a suit is brought upon it, the plaintiff must make his fore-oath in four churches, and when that has been done, the defendant must clear himself in twelve, so that falsehood on either side would involve manifold perjury and contempt of the church and the saints.114 Here we seem to have a mixture of secular and ecclesiastical sanctions, rendered all the easier by the bishop constantly being, as we have seen, the chief judicial officer of the shire. But this must have been a very special procedure, and probably confined to persons of high rank. And it is hard to tell what the subject-matter of these solemn undertakings can have been, unless it were marriages of the parties’ children and what we now should call family settlements and, perhaps, reconciliation of standing feuds. We may guess, from what is known of the practice of local courts in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, that before the Conquest the hundred courts did to some extent do justice in matters of bargain and promise in the ordinary affairs of life. But we have no direct information whatever.
Claims for stolen things: warranty.On the other hand, there runs persistently through the Anglo-Saxon laws a series of ordinances impressing on buyers of cattle the need of buying before good witnesses. But this has nothing to do with the validity of the sale between the parties. The sole purpose, judging by the terms and context of these enactments, is to protect the buyer against the subsequent claims of any person who might allege that the cattle had been stolen from him. Difficulties of this kind were especially rife when the sale had been made (in the earlier times) in another English kingdom, or up the country. Hlothær and Eadric laid down the precautions to be observed by a Kentish man buying cattle in London, then a Mercian town.115 Evidently great suspicion attached to sales made anywhere out of open market. Some ordinances require the presence of the portreeve or other credible men at sales without the gates; others attempt to prohibit selling altogether except in towns. Afterwards witnesses are required in town and country alike,116 and in the latest period we find the number of four witnesses specified.117 A buyer who neglected to take witness was liable to eviction, if the cattle were claimed as stolen, without even the chance of calling the seller to warrant him, and he might also incur a forfeiture to the lord of the place, and be called on to clear himself by oath of any complicity in the theft. If he had duly taken witness, he still had to produce the seller, or, if the seller could not be found, to establish his own good faith by oath.
If the seller appeared, he had in turn to justify his possession, and this process might be carried back to the fourth remove from the ultimate purchaser. These elaborate provisions for vouching to warranty (A.-S. teám)118 or the custom on which they were founded, persisted for some time after the Norman Conquest,119 and are interesting by their analogy to the doctrine of warranty in the law of real property, which afterwards underwent a far more full and technical development, and remained, long after it had been forgotten in practice, at the foundation of many parts of modern conveyancing. The dooms of Ine contain a curious archaic provision120 for a buyer clearing himself by an oath taken over the stolen property at the seller’s grave, in the case of the seller having died since the purchase of the slave, or other thing in dispute.
Land tenure.With regard to the tenure of land we have a considerable bulk of information, derived partly from charters and wills, partly from occasional passages in the laws, and partly from other documents, especially the tract known as Rectitudines singularum personarum. We have gone into the matter elsewhere,121 and we may confine ourselves here to a short statement of what is positively known.
Book-land.Our Anglo-Saxon charters or books are mostly grants of considerable portions of land made by kings to bishops and religious houses, or to lay nobles. Land so granted was called book-land, and the grant conferred a larger dominion than was known to the popular customary law. During the ninth century and the early part of the tenth the grant usually purports to be with the consent of the witan. Alodium (of which we have no English form) is, in documents of the Norman age, a regular Latin translation of book-land. There is great reason to believe that a grant of book-land usually made no difference at all to the actual occupation of the soil. It was a grant of lordship and revenues, and in some cases of jurisdiction and its profits. The inhabitants rendered their services and dues to new lords, possibly enough to the same bailiff on behalf of the new lord, and things went on otherwise as before. The right of alienating book-land depended on the terms of the original grant. They were often large enough to confer powers equivalent to those of a modern tenant in fee simple. Accordingly book-land granted by such terms could be and was disposed of by will, though it is impossible to say that the land dealt with in extant Anglo-Saxon wills was always book-land. Lords of book-land might and sometimes did create smaller holdings of the same kind by making grants to dependants. It is important to remember that book-land was a clerkly and exotic institution, and that grants of it owe their existence directly or indirectly to royal favour, and throw no light, save incidentally, on the old customary rules of landholding.
Inferior tenures: læ´ n-land.When the day of conquest was at hand, many of the tillers of the ground were dependent on a lord to whom they owed rents and services substantially like those of which we have ample and detailed evidence in later documents. A large proportion of them were personally freemen;122 the homesteads were several, and every freeman was answerable for his own fence.123 There is little doubt that, except in the western counties, common-field agriculture was general if not universal;124 and probably the scheme of distribution and the normal amount of holdings was very like that which we find after the Conquest. Freemen sometimes held considerable estates under a lord, but our authorities are too scanty to enable us to say on what terms.125 In the later Anglo-Saxon period, land held of a superior, whether much or little, is called læ´n-land. It is not clear whether this term extended to customary tenures (those for example which would result from a grant of book-land as between the new lord and the occupiers) or was limited to interests created by an express agreement. In the latter case it may be compared with the Gallo-Frankish precarium, from which indeed it was perhaps derived.126
Folk-land.Folk-land is a term which occurs only in a few documents, and then without any decisive explanation. In the most authoritative of these, a law of Edward the Elder, it is contrasted with book-land as if it included all land that was not book-land. Spelman, so reading the passage, defined folk-land as land held by common, that is customary law, without written title. On this view an Englishman who was asked, “What do you mean by folk-land? ” would have answered, “Land held by folk-right.” In 1830 John Allen put forth another view which prevailed for two generations. He said127 that “folk-land, as the word imports, was the land of the folk or people. It was the property of the community.” The proposed analogy to the Latin ager publicus was accepted as confidently as it was proposed, and with singularly little discussion, by Kemble and almost every one who treated of Anglo-Saxon land tenures down to 1893. Difficulties occurred, however, in working out Allen’s theory, and were found to increase as one scholar after another entered farther upon details. In particular, it was hard to account for the number of freemen, which must have been considerable in the time of Edward the Elder at all events, holding land which was not book-land. Various conjectural names for that kind of holding were proposed by Kemble and others, but for none of them was there any authority. If these lands were included in folk-land, and folc-land meant ager publicus, then every one who had not book-land was in name and in law a mere tenant from the state. If not, there was no evidence that land held by the most general and practically important form of title had any proper name at all. Neither conclusion could be deemed satisfying. In 1893 Mr. Paul Vinogradoff128 pointed out that Allen’s theory was really gratuitous. The documents do not by any means require it; the analogy of other compounds in which the word folc occurs is against it; and when it turns out to give rise to more difficulties than it removes, it is better to fall back upon the older and simpler explanation. Folk-land, then, appears to have been, as Spelman said, land held without written title under customary law. We have no right to assume that there were not varieties of tenure within this general description, or that custom was uniform even in the same kingdom. It is probable that the alienation of folk-land was difficult, and we do not know to what extent, if to any considerable extent, power to dispose of it by will had been introduced. The problem of reconstructing the old folk-right in detail belongs, however, rather to the history of Germanic social antiquities than to that of the laws of England; and our interpretation of the scanty evidence available must depend in great measure on the manner in which the fuller evidence of the two centuries after the Conquest is interpreted.129
Transition to Anglo-Norman feudalism.After the Norman Conquest book-land preserved its name for a time in some cases, but was finally merged in the feudal tenures in the course of the twelfth century. The relations of a grantee of book-land to those who held under him were doubtless tending for some considerable time before the Conquest to be practically very like those of a feudal superior; but Anglo-Saxon law had not reached the point of expressing the fact in any formal way. The Anglo-Saxon and the continental modes of conveyance and classification of tenures must have coalesced sooner or later. But the Conquest suddenly bridged a gap which at the time was still well-marked. After its work is done we find several new lines of division introduced and some old ones obliterated, while all those that are recognized are deeper and stronger than before. The king’s lordship and the hands that gather the king’s dues are everywhere; and where they have come the king’s law will soon follow.
[p. 38,] middle of page. As to the burh-geat (not burh-geat-setl) see W. H. Stevenson, E. H. R. xii. 489; Maitland, Township and Borough, 209.
[1 ] See Maitland, Domesday Book and Beyond, Cambridge, 1897.
[2 ] The A.-S. laws were first printed by Lambard, Archaionomia, 1568. A second edition of his work was published by Whelock, Archaionomia, Cambridge, 1644.— This was followed in 1721 by Wilkins, Leges Anglo-Saxonicae.—In 1840 the Ancient Laws and Institutes of England were edited for the Record Commission by Price and Thorpe.—This was followed by Reinhold Schmid, Gesetze der Angelsachsen, 2nd ed. Leipzig, 1858, which superseded a first and incomplete edition of 1832.—A new edition by Dr. F. Liebermann is in course of publication.—For detailed discussion see, besides Kemble’s well-known works, the Glossary in Schmid’s edition— Konrad Maurer, Angelsächsische Rechtsverhältnisse, in Kritische Ueberschau der deutschen Gesetzgebung, vol. i. ff. Munich, 1853, ff.—Essays in Anglo-Saxon Laws (Adams, Lodge, Young, Laughlin), 1876.—Full use has been made of the A.-S. documents by historians of German law, Brunner, Schröder, v. Amira and others.—For the Scandinavian side of the story, see Steenstrup, Danelag, Copenhagen, 1882.
[3 ] Schmid, Gesetze, p. 371. The Gerefa, which seems to be a continuation of this tract, was published by Dr. Liebermann, in Anglia, ix. 251, and by Dr. Cunningham, Growth of English Industry, ed. 3, vol. i. p. 571 ff.
[4 ] The principal collections are:—Kemble, Codex Diplomaticus, 1839–48.— Thorpe, Diplomatarium, 1865.—Earle, Land Charters, 1888.—Birch, Cartularium, 1885 ff.—Napier and Stevenson, Crawford Charters, 1895.—Four volumes of facsimiles published by the British Museum, 1873 ff., and two volumes by the Ordnance Survey, 1877 ff.
[5 ] Æthelst. ii. 2. A man who was considerable enough to have only the king above him required, of course, no other lord.
[6 ] A.-S. Chron. ann. 921.
[7 ] Ælf. 43.
[8 ] A solitary claim of villeinage is reported in the reign of James I.
[9 ] Æthelst. vi. (Iudicia civitatis Lundoniae) 8 § 2.
[10 ] Kemble, Saxons, i. 261. The A.-S. term for the kindred is “mægð,” in Latin versions “parentela.”
[11 ] Hen. 88 § 13; Schmid points out the strong resemblance to Lex Sal. 60, “De eo qui se de parentilla tollere vult.”
[12 ] Brunner, D. R. G. i. 104 ff.
[13 ] The modern form thane has acquired misleading literary associations.
[14 ] Schmid, Gesetze, pp. 389, 397, 431.
[15 ] Little, Gesiths and Thegns, E. H. R. iv. 723; Maitland, Domesday Book, 161.
[16 ] Wiht. 26.
[17 ] Hl. and E. 5; see Schmid thereon. The slave-traders were often foreigners, commonly Jews. Ireland and Gaul were the main routes.
[18 ] In. 11.
[19 ] Æthelr. v. 2, vi. 9; Cn. ii. 3; cf. Lex Rib. 16; Lex Sal. 39 § 2.
[20 ] A. Napier, Berlin, 1883, pp. 129, n., 158, 160–61.
[21 ] Will. Malm. Vita Wulstani, in Wharton, Anglia Sacra, ii. 258; quoted nearly in full, Freeman, Norman Conquest, iv. 386.
[22 ] Leges Willelmi, i. 41.
[23 ] Cod. Dipl. iv. 263 (manumission by Geatflæd of “all the men whose heads she took for their food in the evil days”). This and other examples are conveniently collected at the end of Thorpe’s Diplomatarium.
[24 ] L. Q. R. vii. 64.
[25 ] Wiht. 8: an archaic authority, but there is nothing to show any change.
[26 ] Ælf. 43 (as Schmid and the Latin version take it). Cp. Theod. Pen. xiii. 3 (Haddan and Stubbs, Councils, iii. 202).
[27 ] Æthelb. 26.
[28 ] Wiht. 8: “If one manumits his man at the altar, let him be folk-free.”
[29 ] Glanvill, ii. 6. Details on Anglo-Saxon servitude may be found in Kemble, Saxons, bk. i. c. 8, and Larking, Domesday Book of Kent, note 57. See also Maurer, Kritische Ueberschau, i. 410; Jastrow, Zur strafrechtlichen Stellung der Sklaven (Gierke’s Untersuchungen, 1878); Brunner, D. R. G. i. 95.
[30 ] In. 9. The wording “wrace dó” is vague: doubtless it means taking the other party’s cattle.
[31 ] E.g. Clovelly Court, N. Devon. Cp. Rentalia et Custumaria, Somerset Record Society, 1891, Glossary, s.v. Curia. For the aula, haula, halla of D. B., see Maitland, Domesday Book, 109 ff.
[32 ] Brunner, D. R. G. ii. 375.
[33 ] The usual modern term “compurgator” was borrowed by legal antiquaries from ecclesiastical sources in much later times.
[34 ] This discovery is due to Dr. Liebermann, Sitzungsberichte der berliner Akademie, 1896, xxxv. 829. The less common word ceac (a cauldron) was confused with ceap (buying) and the genuine reading was treated by the editors as an unmeaning variant.
[35 ] The appearance of orest (a correct Northern form = Eng. eornest) among the privileges of Waltham Abbey, Cod. Dipl. iv. 154, is probably due to a post-Norman scribe, for our text rests on a very late copy. At all events the charter is only a few years before the Conquest. However, trial by battle may well have been known in the Danelaw throughout the tenth century.
[36 ] Brunner, D. R. G. ii. 415.
[37 ] Leg. Will. ii. (Willelmes cyninges ásetnysse).
[38 ] Ælf. 42. Sir James Stephen’s statement (Hist. Crim. Law, i. 61) that “trial by battle was only private war under regulations” cannot be accepted.
[39 ] Cn. ii. 22, and the newly-printed gloss in Liebermann, Consil. Cnuti, p. 14. From this, so far as it may be trusted, it would seem that a triple fore-oath might put the “credible” defendant to a stronger oath and the “incredible” one to the severe “threefold” ordeal.
[40 ] Edg. iii. 5 (third quarter of tenth century); “Institutes of Polity” in Thorpe, Ancient Laws, ii. 313.
[41 ] However, as to the manner in which justice was done in ecclesiastical causes and when clerks were accused extremely little is known. See Stubbs, Historical Appendix to Report of Eccl. Courts Comm. 1883, p. 23; Makower, Const. Hist. of the Church of England, 384 ff.
[42 ] “Witenagemót” does not appear to have been an official term.
[43 ] Edg. iii. 2; repeated Cnut, ii. 17.
[44 ] Æthelst. ii. 3.
[45 ] Cf. Æthelst. vi. (Iud. Civ. Lund.) 8 §§ 2, 3.
[46 ] Blackstone, Comm. iii. 51.
[47 ] Blackstone, Comm. iii. 444.
[48 ] Cases collected in Essays in Anglo-Saxon Law, ad fin.
[49 ] Haddan and Stubbs, Councils, iii. 541, 596.
[50 ] Earle, Land Charters, 453.
[51 ] Kemble, Saxons, ii. 247, 249.
[52 ] Edg. i. 1 (the ascription of this ordinance to Edgar is conjectural, but serves to fix its earliest possible date, Schmid, p. xlviii; Liebermann, Consil. Cnuti, p. v.); Edg. iii. 5.
[53 ] Edg. iii. 1.
[54 ] Cf. Schmid, Glossar, s.v. mearc; Maitland, Domesday Book, 275.
[55 ] Maitland, Domesday Book, 80 ff., 258 ff.
[56 ] Leg. Hen. c. 87 § 10, 89 § 1, secundum legem Saligam; 90 § 4, secundum legem Ribuariorum solvatur.
[57 ] Leg. Hen. c. 33 § 4: “de libro Theodosianae legis, iniuste victus infra tres menses reparet causam.” The quotation is really from an epitome of the Lex Romana Visigothorum.
[58 ] See A.-S. Chron. ann. 1002.
[59 ] Fustel de Coulanges, Origines du système féodal, 300 ff. Lex Sal. xiii. 6; lvi. 5. Edict of Chilperic, 9. To be out of the king’s protection is to be extra sermonem suum, foras nostro sermone. In xiv. 4, praeceptum appears to be the king’s written protection or licence. The phrase in Ed. Conf. 6 § 1 (cf. Brunner, D. R. G. ii. 42), ore suo utlagabit eum rex, or, as the second edition gives it, utlagabit eum rex verbo oris sui, looks more like the confused imitation of an archaizing compiler than a genuine parallel.
[60 ] For some further details see Pollock, Oxford Lectures, 1890, “The King’s Peace,” 65.
[61 ] See Brunner, D. R. G. ii. §§ 65, 66, who calls attention (p. 42) to the relative weakness of the crown in England before the Conquest.
[62 ] Edw. ii. 1. Schmid, Gloss. s.v. Friede, considers the general peace to have been the king’s peace in some sense. This lacks authority, but seems accepted as regards the continent: Brunner, D. R. G. ii. 42. It is nearer the truth than any talk about the “folk-peace.”
[63 ] Cn. ii. 20.
[64 ] Ælf. Prolog. 19, copied from the book of Exodus, is of course no exception.
[65 ] Cp. Grettis Saga, c. 79.
[66 ] Brunner, D. R. G. i. 86. An archaic synonym leód occurs Æthelb. 22, 23, cp. Grimm, 652.
[67 ] Ælf. 42.
[68 ] Edm. ii. 7, and Be Wergilde (Schmid, App. vii.) § 4.
[69 ] Edm. ii. 1. Æthelr. ii. 6 § 1, suggests but hardly proves a change, leaving the option with the slain man’s kindred alone, though such is held to have been the settled rule on the continent: Brunner, D. R. G. i. 163.
[70 ] Tac. Germ. c. 12. Bót is closely connected with “better”: the idea is “making good.”
[71 ] Ælf. Prolog. 49 § 7.
[72 ] In. 18; Ælf. 32; Cn. ii. 16, 30. The “folk-leasing” of Alfred’s law must be habitual false accusation in the folk-moot, not private slander.
[73 ] It was formally abolished in civil proceedings only in 1879, 42 & 43 Vict. c. 59, s. 3. In criminal matters it is still possible. But it has not been in use for a generation or more.
[74 ] E. & G. 6 § 6; cp. Edg. i. 3; Æthelr. i. 1 § 9, and many later passages.
[75 ] E. & G. 6 § 7: the outlaw, if slain, shall lie æ´gylde, the exact equivalent of the Homeric nhvpoinoı.
[76 ] Co. Lit. 130 a; Blackstone, Comm. iv. 118; 5 Eliz. c. 1.
[77 ] Eng. tiht-bysig, folce ungetrýwe, Lat. incredibilis. The idea is the contradiction of getrýwe = homo probus or legalis. Folce or eallum folce signifies merely notoriety: we cannot find in the text, as some writers have done, a doctrine of fealty to the people as a quasi-sovereign.
[78 ] Edg. iii. 7; Cn. ii. 33; cp. ib. 22.
[79 ] Æthelst. ii. 3, cp. 17; iv. 3. Cp. vi. 8, as to over-powerful clans.
[80 ] Cf. Baillie Nicol Jarvie on the state of the Highlands, Rob Roy, ii. ch. 12 (original edition).
[81 ] Liutprand openly regretted that trial by combat could not be abolished. Liutpr. c. 118: “incerti sumus de iudicio dei, et multos audiuimus per pugnam sine iustitia causam suam perdere: sed propter consuitutinem gentis nostrae langobardorum legem ipsam uetare non possumus.” Avitus, Bishop of Vienne, protested against Gundobad’s ordinance. At a later time Agobard of Lyons denounced it. See Lea, Superstition and Force, ed. 4, p. 409.
[82 ] Ælf. 4.
[83 ] Ed. Roth. 1 (L. Langob.) “contra animam regis cogitaverit aut consiliaverit”; L. Sax. 24, “de morte consiliatus fuerit”; so L. Baiuw. ii. 1; L. Alam. 23: “in mortem ducis consiliatus fuerit”; cp. Brunner, D. R. G. ii. 688.
[84 ] The following words no doubt substantially represent the text of the Lex Julia: “Cuiusve opera consilio dolo malo consilium initum erit quo quis magistratus populi Romani quive imperium potestatemve habeat occidatur.” Dig. 48. 4. ad 1. Iuliam maiestatis, 1 § 1. The consiliaverit, consiliatus fuerit, of the Germanic laws can hardly be an accidental resemblance. In Glanv. xiv. 1, the principal terms are machinatum fuisse vel aliquid fecisse, but consilium dedisse is there too.
[85 ] Cn. ii. 64; Leg. Hen. 12.
[86 ] Ælf. 4; Æthelst. ii. 4; Æthelr. v. 30, vi. 37; Cn. ii. 57. This last passage, in its literal terms, would not allow purgation by oath-helpers at all, but send the accused straight to the ordeal. So great a change of the previous law can scarcely have been intended. Æthelred’s ordinance, vi. 37, requires the “deepest oath,” whatever that was. Cp. Godwine’s oath “cum totius fere Angliae principibus et ministris dignioribus,” Flor. Wigorn. i. 195. Possibly Danish law may have been stricter than English. We hear of an oath of 48 thanes against the charge of robbing a corpse: Be walreáje, Schmid, App. xv. in a document apparently of Danish extraction; see Brunner, D. R. G. ii. 684. The Lex Ribuaria requires in some special cases an oath of 36 or even 72 men.
[87 ] Edg. i. 9; Dóm be hátan ísene and wætre, Schm. App. xvi.
[88 ] Cn. ii. 56; Hen. 71, 92. See Schmid, Gloss. s.v. morð, and cp. the old Norse adage, “Night-slaying is murder” (Natt-víg er morð-víg); also Lex Rib. 15.
[89 ] In. 35, cp. 28; Æthelst. vi. (Iud. Civ. Lund.) 7; cp. Ed. Conf. 36.
[90 ] Ælf. 42.
[91 ] In. 21.
[92 ] Hen. 83 § 6. The detailed instructions for laying out the slain man with his arms, etc., are curious but untrustworthy. The main object was to show that the killing was not secret.
[93 ] Ælf. 35. For continental analogies, see Brunner, D. R. G. ii. 674.
[94 ] Ælf. 36 (probably enacted in consequence of some particular case in the king’s court, or otherwise well known); cp. Hen. 88 §§ 1–3. The proviso as to holding the spear level is easily understood as referring to a spear of moderate length, which could not be well carried, like the long sixteenth to seventeenth century pike, with the point so high up as to be wholly out of harm’s way. The carriage of the “puissant pike” was almost a special art when its time came.
[95 ] Hen. 88 § 6, 90 § 11. [Þe] brecht ungewealdes bete gewealdes, in Germany wer unwillig gethan muss willig zahlen; see Heusler, Institutionen, ii. 263.
[96 ] Cn. ii. 75; cp. Hen. 87 § 2.
[97 ] See Ine 29; Ælf. 19.
[98 ] Ælf. 19 § 3; Hen. 87 § 3. A similar rule as to arms given in pledge still has the force of law in Montenegro: Code général des biens (tr. Dareste), Paris 1892, art. 176.
[99 ] The word gesund may well point to a warranty of this kind. Brunner, Forschungen, 520.
[100 ] Ælf. 12 seems to relate only to wilful trespass in woods.
[101 ] Ælf. 23.
[102 ] Ælf. 13.
[103 ] Ælf. 24.
[104 ] In. 17.
[105 ] Cn. ii. 21.
[106 ] Ib. 29.
[107 ] Ine 7, 57.
[108 ] Ed. Napier, Berlin, 1883, p. 158.
[109 ] As to robbing corpses, Schmid, App. xv. Be Walreáfe.
[110 ] Ælf. 5 § 5; the principle is reaffirmed, but so vaguely as to suggest that it had become obsolete in practice, in Cn. ii. 38.
[111 ] Muirhead, Private Law of Rome, 149, 163, 227 (origin of stipulation).
[112 ] The Roman words credere, fides, spondere, involve a whole history of this kind. Pernice, Labeo, i. 409; Pacchioni, Actio ex Sponsu, Bologna, 1888: Ehrenverpfändung in German formulas as late as fifteenth century, see Kohler, Shakespeare vor dem Forum der Jurisprudenz, 1884, appx.
[113 ] Edm. ii. 7, and Be Wergilde, Schmid, App. vii.
[114 ] Ælf. 33. Cp. the provisions as to “briduw” in the laws of Howel (tenth century) ap. Haddan and Stubbs, Councils, i. 237, 271.
[115 ] Hl. & E. 16. The supposed “improbability of a Kentish king making a law for purchases made in the Mercian city of London” (Thorpe’s note ad loc. is imaginary). The law applies to a claim made in Kent by a Mercian professing to be the true owner, and it is to be executed wholly in Kent.
[116 ] Edg. iv. 6; Cn. ii. 24.
[117 ] Leg. Will. i. 45.
[118 ] See Æthelr. ii. 9, Be teámum, and Schmid’s Glossary s. vv. Käufe, Teám.
[119 ] Glanv. x. 15–17.
[120 ] Ine 53.
[121 ] Pollock, The Land Laws, 3rd ed. Lond. 1896, chap. ii. and notes B, C and D; Maitland, Domesday and Beyond, 1897.
[122 ] Ine 3 § 2; Ælf. 43; Rect. S. P. 3.
[123 ] Ine 40.
[124 ] Ine 42 is a good illustration, though by itself not conclusive.
[125 ] Ine 63–67. We assume that the hide here spoken of is not materially different from the normal hide of the Domesday period, i.e. 120 acres. Perhaps these passages have to do with the settlement of a newly conquered district. Maitland, Domesday Book, 237–38.
[126 ] See Fustel de Coulanges, Le bénéfice et le patronat, ch. iv–vii.
[127 ] Royal Prerogative, ed. 1849, p. 135.
[128 ] Folk-land, E. H. R. viii. 1–17.
[129 ] It is now prudent rather than necessary to remind the reader that Kemble’s brilliant conjectures were premature and largely unwarranted.