Page images

it to the altered circumstances by yoking it to a Constitution. Its fate is recorded.

The Government which succeeded that of Charles X. had for its chief exponent his cousin Louis-Philippe, of the house of Orleans-the younger branch of the Bourbon family. He was familiarly dubbed at the time "The Citizen King," to show that he was the representative of modern France.

I shall reserve my comments on this reign, of which I was an eye-witness, until I discuss it in the "History of my Times."




A GLANCE, however rapid, at English history before the Middle Ages will be interesting. The islands of Britain and Ireland were first occupied by emigrants from Gaul -afterwards France-of the Celtic race.* Aristotle alluded to these islands some 350 years before Christ; yet little is known of them until the invasion of Britain by Julius Cæsar in the first century. Ireland never fell under the Roman, or Saxon yoke, and remained purely Celtic for several centuries: a fact which explains, in some degree, the dissimilarity of character between the Irish and the English. The Romans remained masters of Britain for four centuries, and did not retire until the fifth century, when the invasion of Italy by the Goths. imperatively recalled them home. The Britons then became the prey of various German tribes, who conquered different parts of the island, and dispossessed the native Chiefs or Kings.

With the success of these tribes the period known as the Saxon Heptarchy begins. Under Egbert, King of Wessex-827-the Seven Kingdoms of the Heptarchy were united under one Government, and the country then took the name of England. The institutions,

* Gaul, Italy, and Spain were first occupied by roving tribes of Celts, supposed to have come from India.

laws, and language of the Saxons superseded those of the ancient Britons, who became the slaves of the new conquerors. The Kingdom was divided by degrees into shires or counties, each shire having its law courts. There were numerous cities and burghs. The Church had its hierarchy of Archbishops, Bishops, and inferior Clergy; cathedrals and monasteries were built and endowed; and poetry and literature were cultivated. The language spoken and written was Saxon. The Saxons held England for over four centuries, with the exception of an interval of twenty-seven years, when the Danes obtained possession of the country, and established a dynasty. In 1041, the Crown was restored to the Saxons.

It is curious to observe in some of the institutions of the Saxons the germs of what is now existing. For instance, the Government, though Monarchical, was limited by an Assembly-The Witan-composed of Priests and Nobles. "The pervading principle," says Rowland, "of the Saxon government was aristocracy." But what is more striking is, that the Saxons were divided into three ranks-the Nobles, the Freemen, and the Slaves. The Nobles and Freemen were Saxon, whilst the slaves were the descendants of the conquered Britons. This free, or Middle Class was engaged in agriculture, or when living in towns, in various handicrafts. The slaves were employed either on the land or in the houses of their masters. The freeman of the Middle Class could by successful industry raise himself to the position of a Thane,* just as at the present day

*The Thanes were divided into King's Thanes, or Nobility; and the middle and inferior Thanes, or Gentry. If a freeman became owner of a certain quantity of land, or made three voyages in a ship, and with a cargo of his own, he was made a Thane.

« PreviousContinue »