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ACCOUNT of Books for 1767.
THE History of the Life of King first book of the age of Henry the
Henry the Second, and of the age Second, we have chereby a come in which he lived, in fire Bocks : 10 plete history of England and of its which is prefixed, a Hiftory of the Re. continental connexions, for that wolutions of England from the Death interesting period of above an hunof Edward the Confeffor to the Birth dred years. In this period we see of Henry the Second. By George Lord the conquest of one mighty nation Lyttleton. [3 yols. 4to.].
by another; the union and incor
poration of both nations; the man. S there is, perhaps, no ftudyner how by flow degrees they were
so delightful as that of his. melted into one ; and their united tory, so there is no hiftory so use, acts under some of the greatest mo. ful as that of our own country, narchs that ever lived. The noble The very early accounts of Eng- writer traces out, with the greateft land, as of all other ancient nations, accuracy, the degrees by which the being founded on fable, the read: Norman feudal system was engraft. ing of any thing relating to those ed upon and interwoven with the dark ages may be confidered mere. Anglo-Saxon constitution ; from ly as an amusement. But from whence, through various modifica. the time that the different king. tions, proceeds that excellent form doms of the heptarchy were united which we enjoy at present. under one government; that the This is a part of our history, Anglo-Saxon conftitution began to which requires the greatest labour, be completely formed ; and that judgment, and knowledge, to in. many facts became properly ascer. veftigate; and which, though tained; every part of the history essentially sequisite to be known of England becomes an object of by every Englishman of cong. consideration.
deration in his country, is the The noble author of the excel. moft involved in obscurity, the lent work before us, has chosen leaft generally understood, and the one of the most critical, the most part as to which modern writ. distinguished, and the most interest- ers differ most in opinion. For ing periods, for the subject of his this many causes may be assigned; hiltory. To his age of Henry the most of our writers have been in Second he has prefixed a history fluenced by some or other of the of the revolutions which happened parties into which we have been in England from the death of Ed. so frequently divided, and which ward the Confessor to the birth of are perhaps so necessary for the that prince. And as the history preservation of a free state. From of king Stephen is included in the hence it has proceeded, that too
many of our historians have adopt. date his subject; he has examined ed favourite systems, to which every the most ancient records that are thing that came in their way was in being; the fcarceft manuscripts obliged to submit, which, as it has the pipe-rolls of the exchequer; lessened our character as historians, and whatever else that could in any has equally prevented our acquifi- degree serve to remove error, or to tion of the most useful knowledge, ascertain fact; and from this laboIt cannot however be denied, that rious course of enquiry, we find the materials for this subject are the series of events in this history often defective; many things are better ascertained, than perhaps in overlooked at the time of writ. any other work of the kind that ing, aș matters that are generally ever was published. known, and that can never be for- Henry the second was one of the gotten, which if recorded would af- greatest princes, in extent of do. ford the greatest lights to pofterity. minion, in magnanimity and in It is probably owing to this want abilities, that ever governed this of precision in the ancient writers, nation. Whether we consider him and to the fondness of system in the as a hero, or a ftatesman; whether moderns, that we now find it so in the field giving law to his enedifficult to trace the history of our mies, or at home administering ancient conítitution, or to define justice to his people ; we find him the exact powers of the different equally great, and his actions e. parts of it, and from thence arise qually surprising. His life is parthe great diversity of opinions re- ticularly instructive, from the unlative to thefe fubjects.
common variety of the events it It happens fortunately, with re. contains ; from its being diftin. spect to the work before us, that the guished by great virtues and great age of Henry the second produced faults; by sudden and surprising better writers than had appeared changes of fortune in the affairs of for several hundred years before this kingdom ; by the subjection or after that era, so that it may not of Wales, of Scotland, and of Ire. perhaps be an absolute impropriety land ; and by a glory furpaffing to call it the middle classical age. all military achievements, the reThe noble author has also availed formation of government, and the himself of fome materials, which eftablishment of good laws and are to be found in few other periods wise inftitutions, beneficial to the of ancient or modern times, viz. public. collections of letters, writeen on Though this period has been inaffairs of great moment, by fome cloded in the general histories of of the principal actors in those other writers, yet it must be ac. affairs, or persons employed by knowledged, that in works of so them, and deep in their confidence. vart an extent, there cannot be From these he takes almost all the such a full detail of particulars, particulars of Henry's quarrel with nor so much exactress and accuBecket, and they serve to throw racy, as in those that are confined light on many other important to narrow limits. It is only in trapfactions. His Lordship has the latter, that the several steps and neglected nothing that could eluci. preparatory measures, by which
great actions are conducted, and it down to the death of Becket in great events are brought on, can be hewn with any clearness, The 3d volume confifts of notes, Much, therefore, in this hiftory upon the second, and the authowill be new to many readers; and rities upon which the former vomany, matters, which have been lomes are founded. The history already subjects of discussion, will from the death of Becket in 1976, here appear in a new light. In to the death of Henry, which hape particular, the researches which pened in 1189, nineteen years afthe noble author has made into terwards, is wanting, but though the ancient laws and conftitution we have no particular information of England, and the feudal infti. upon the subject, we have some tutions and tenures, will be found reason to hope it will foon makt well worth the attention of every its appearance. Englishman. The state of the Upon the whole, whether we church, of the royal revenues, of consider the work with respect to the exchequer, and of the military the labour attending it, the weight government, are treated with equal of the matter it contains, the clear. perfpicuity and elegance, and ness, accuracy, and perfpicuity of new lights thrown upon some of its manner, or the elegance of them which they had not before its compofition, we cannot help received. The account his Lord. thinking it one of the best hiftories fhip gives of the croisades, and the that has appeared in the English orders of knighthood, are highly language, and a most valuable at: curious and entertaining; and the quisition to the knowledge of our warmth with which upon all occa- country. fions he vindicates the general From the nature of this work, rights of mankind, must procure it is scarce possible to make any him the suffrages of all lovers of abftracts of it, without mucilating liberty
or disgracing the original. We The present publication confifts fhall, however, as we go along, ocof three volumes in quarto; but cafionally touch upon some parti. the work is unfinished, three of cular passages, which we apprehend the five books only of which it are put in a new light, or where confifts, being contained in these the 'noble author differs in opi
The first volume con- nion on material points from some tains, besides the history of the re- other writers, volutions, which we have already His lordship observes that Wil. taken notice of, the first book of liam the first was so far from the life of Henry the second, con- grounding his title to the crown of: taining the history of that prince England upon a suppofed right from his birth till he ascended the of conqueft, that he used his utmost throne ; and includes the prin- endeavours to establish the notion cipal occurrences of the life of of his being heit to King Edward, King Stephen. The second vo- from the appointment of sbar mo. lume contains the second and third narch. And that he was crowned, books of the history, which bring not without the appearance and
form of an election, or free ac. acted; in one of which we find knowledgment of his claim : for an express declaration, That all the archbishop of York, and the " the freemen in his kingdom bishop of Coutance, who offici. “ should hold and enjoy their ated in the ceremony, feparately " lands and poffeffions free from demanded of the nobility, prelates « all unjust exaction, and from all and people of both nations, (Eng- “ tallage ; so that nothing should lish and Normans) who were pre. «« be exacted or taken of them fent and afliting, whether they con- « but their free fervice, which fented that he foould reign over them? " they by right owed to the and, with joyful acclamations, “ crown, and were bound to perthey answered,' that they did. Be- “ form." It is farther faid, fore he afcended the throne, he " That this was ordained and made a compact with his new fub- " granted to them as an heredia jects, by his coronation oath, the tary right for ever, by the come same with that of the Saxon ", mon council of the kingdom." kinge.
Which very remarkable statute is « Adiftinction is to be made be. justly styled by a learned author, tween the government of William Nathaniel Bacon, the firft Magna the First, which was very tyran- Charta of the Normans. And it nical, and the constitution establish- extended no less to the English ed under him in this kingdom, than to the Normans." ; which was no abfolu:e monarchy, The noble writer is of opinion, but an ingraftment of the feudal that the English were not reduced tenures and other customs of Nor- so low. by William the Conqueror, mandy upon the ancient Saxon laws even at the end of his reign (as of Edward the Confeffor. He more some writers have supposed) as to than once fwore to maintain those be mere abject drudges and Naves Laws, and in the fourth year of his to the Normans ; in proof of which reign confirmed them in parlia- he lhews, that the very year after ment; yet not without great al. his death they raised an army of terations, to which the whole le. thirty thousand men, in fupport of his gislature agreed, by a more com- fon, William Rufus, against his bro. plete introduction of the strict cher Robert and the whole force of feudal law, as it was practised the Normans; which army served in Normandy; which produced him bravely and faithfully in his a different political system, and distress, and to them he chiefly changed both power and property owed his preservation. So that in many respects ; though the first their force was sufficient to mainan principles of that law and gene- tain that prince of the royal family, ral noiians of it, had been in ure who courted them most, upon the among the English fome ages be- throne of this kingdom, against all fore. But that the liberty of the the efforts of the contrary faction : . subject was not so destroyed by a very remarkable fact, which als these alterations, as some writers most retrieved the honour of the : have supposed, plainly appears by nation. she very ftatutes that William en- The account his Lordship gires
of the accession of Henry the First, a determined and moderate role and the great things he did for of law. To use the words of one public liberty, contains fome curi- of our greateft antiquaries, Sir ous and uncommon observations. Henry Spelman; It was the ori.
“ The nation resolved to give ginal of king John's Magne Charta; the crown to a prince, who should containing most of the articles of it; acquire and hold it under no other either particularly expressed, or in claim than a compact with his peo. general, under i be confirmation i ple; and though it would be diffi. gives to the laws of Edward the cult to justify their proceedings Confeffor. So mistaken are they, either in conscience or law, their who have sopposed that all the policy may perhaps be accounted privileges granted in MagnaCharta not unwise ; as it made the title of were innovations extorted by the the king become security for the arms of rebels from king John!. liberty of the subject. To give a notion which seems to have been that liberty a more folid and lasting firft taken up, not so much out of establishment, they demanded a ignorance, as from a base mocharter; which Henry granted tive of adulation to some of our foon after his coronation, as he princes in latter times, who, enhad sworn to do before he was deavoaring to grafp at abfolute crowned. By this he restored the power, were desirous of any preSaxon laws which were in use un- tence to consider these laws, which der Edward the Confessor, but stood in their way, as violent énwith such alterations, or (as he croachments made by the barons ftyled them) emendations, as had on the ancient rights of the crown: been made in them by his father with whereas they were in reality refti. the advice of his parliament; at tutions and fanctions of ancient the same time annulling all evil rights enjoyed by the nobility and customs and illegal exa&tions, by people of England in former which the realm had been unjully reigns; or limitations of powers opprefid. Some of those griev. which the king had illegally and ances were specified in the charter, arbitrarily ftretehed beyond their and the redress of them was there due bounds. In fome respects expressly enacted. It also con- this charter of Henry the First was tained very confiderable mitiga- more advantageous to liberty than tions of those feudal rights, claim. Magna Charta itself." ed by the king over his tenants, The account which our noble and by them over theirs, which author gives of the military art in either were the most burthensome the times of which he treáis, toin their own nature, or had been gether with his observations om made fo by an abusive extension. the ftate of naval affairs in EngIn thort, all the liberiy, that could land before and during that period, well be consistent with the safety are so curious, that we shall traną and interest of the lord in his fiet, scribe the whole in his own words, was allowed to the vallal by this “ The military art, during charter, and the profits due to the the times of which I write, was former were fetiled according to in many particulars the fame