Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

ces and honours) misemployed. This is farther aggravated by appropriating the name of noblemen solely to them: whereas the nation having been anciently divided only into freemen or noblemen (who were the same) and villians; the first were, as Tacitus says of their ancestors the Germans, *“ exempt. ed from burdens and contributions, and reserved like arms for the use of war,” whilst the others were little better than slaves, appointed to cultivate the lands, or to other servile offices. And I leave any reasonable man to judge, whether the latter condition be that of those we now call commoners. Nevertheless, he that will believe the title of nobleman still to belong to those only who are so by patent, may guess how well our wars would be managed, if they were left solely to such as are so by that title. If this be approved, his majesty may do well with his hundred and fifty noblemen, eminent in valour and military experience as they are known to be, to make such wars as may fall upon him, and leave the despised commons, under the name of villains, to provide for themselves, if the success do not answer his expectations. But if the commons are as free as the nobles, many of them in birth equal to the patentees, in estate superior to most of them; and that it is not only expected they should assist him in wars with their persons and purses, but acknowledged by all, that the strength and virtue of the nation is in them ; it must be confessed, that they are true noble

Exempti oneribus & collationibus, & tantum in usum præliorum repositi, veluti tela & arma bellis reservantur.

Corn. Tacit. de morib. Germ.

men of England, and that all the privileges, anciently enjoyed by such, must necessarily belong to them, since they perform the offices to which they were annexed. This shews how the nobility were justly şaid to be almost infinite in number, so that no one place was able to contain them. The Saxon armies, that came over into this country to a wholesome and generative climate, might well increase in four or five ages to those vast numbers, as the Franks, Goths, and others, had done in Spain, France, Italy, and other parts : and when they were grown so numerous, they found themselves necessarily obliged to put the power into the hands of representatives, chosen by themselves, which they had before exercised in their own persons. But these two ways differing rather in form than essentially, the one tending to democracy, the other to aristocracy, they were equally opposite to the absolute dominion of one man reigning for himself, and governing the nation as his patrimony; and equally assert the rights of the people to put the government into such a form as best pleases themselves. This was suitable to what they had practised in their own country : Deminoribus consultant principes, de majoribus omnes,* Nay, even these “smaller matters” cannot be said properly to relate to the king; for he is but one, and the word “ principesis in the plural number, and can signify such principal men, as the same author says, were chosen by the general assemblies to do justice, &c. and to each of them one hundred comites joined, not only to give advice, but authority to their actions.

* Tacit. de mor. Germ.

The word “omnes,spoken by a Roman, must likewise be understood as it was used by them, and imports all the citizens, or such as made up the body of the commonwealth. If he had spoken of Ronte or Athens whilst they remained free, he must have used the same word (because all those, of whom the city consisted, had votes) how great soever the num. ber of slaves or strangers might have been. The Spartans are rightly said to have gained, lost, and recovered, the lordship or principality of Greece. They were all lords in relation to their helots, and so were the Dorians in relation to that sort of men, which under several names they kept, as the Saxons did their villains, for the performance of the offices which they thought too mean for those, who were ennobled by liberty, and the use of arms, by which the commonwealth was defended and enlarged.... Though the Romans scorned to give the title of lord to those, who had usurped a power over their lives and fortunes, yet every one of them was a lord in relation to his own servants, and altogether are often called “*lords of the world:” the like is seen almost every where. The government of Venice, having continued for many ages in the same families, has ennobled them all. No phrase is more common in Switzerland, than “the lords of Bern,” or “the lords of Zurich,” and other places, though perhaps

Romanos rerum dominos. Virg.

there is not a man amongst them who pretends to be a gentleman, according to the modern sense put upon that word. The states of the United Provinces are called high and mighty lords, and the same title is given to each of them in particular. Nay, the word heer, which signifies lord both in high and low Dutch, is as common as monsieur in France, signor in Italy, or sennor in Spain ; and is given to every one, who is not of a sordid condition, but especially to soldiers : and though a common soldier be now a much meaner thing than it was anciently, no man speaking to a company of soldiers in Italian, uses any other style than “ signori soldati ;and the like is done in other languages. It is not, therefore, to be thought strange if the Saxons, who in their own country had scorned any other employment than that of the sword, should think themselves farther ennobled, when by their arms they had acquired a great and rich country, and driven out, or subdued, the former inhabitants. They might well distinguish themselves from the villains they brought with them, or the Britons they had enslaved. They might well be called “magnates, proceres regni, nobiles, Angliæ nobilitas, barones ;” and the assemblies of them justly called “concilium regni generale, universitas totius Angliæ nobilium, universitas baronagii,according to the variety of times, and other occurren

We have such footsteps remaining of the name of baron, as plainly shew the signification of it. The barons of London and the Cinque Ports are known to be only the freemen of those places. In the petty court-barons, every man who may be of a jury is a baron. These are noblemen ; for there are noble nations, as well as noble men in nations. The Mammalukes accounted themselves to be all noble, though born slaves; and when they had ennobled themselves by the use of arms, they looked upon the noblest of the Egyptians as their slaves. Tertullian, writing, not to some eminent men, but to the whole people of Carthage, calls them “ untiquitate nobiles, nobilitate felices.Such were the Saxons, ennobled by a perpetual application to those exercises that belong to noblemen, and an abhorrence to any thing that is vile and sordid.

ces.

Lest this should seem far fetched, to those who please themselves with cavilling, they are to know, that the same general councils are expressed, by other authors, in other words. They are called, *“ The general council of the bishops, noblemen, counts, all the wise men, elders and people of the whole kingdom,” in the time of Ina. In that of Edward the elder, 7" The great council of the bishops, abbots, noblemen, and people.” William of Malmsbury calls them, I“ The general senate and assembly of the people.” Sometimes they are, in short, called "

clergy and people ;' but all ex

Commune concilium episcoporum, procerum, comitum, & omnium sapientum, seniorum & populorum totius regni.

BEB. Eccl. hist.

+ Magnum concilium episcoporum, abbatum, fidelium, prece. rum, & populorum.

Senetum generalem & populi conventum.

« EdellinenJatka »