able reception encouraged five thousand warriors to embark with their families in seventeen vessels, and the infant power of Hengist was fortified by this strong and seasonable reinforcement. The crafty barbarian suggested to Vortigern the obvious advantage of fixing, in the neighbourhood of the Picts, a colony of faithful allies: a third fleet of forty ships, under the command of his son and nephew, sailed from Germany, ravaged the Orkneys, and disembarked a new army on the coast of Northumberland, or Lothian, at the opposite extremity of the devoted land. It was easy to foresee, but it was impossible to prevent, the impending evils. The two nations were soon divided and exasperated by mutual jealousies. The Saxons magnified all that they had d ne and suffered in the cause of an ungrateful people; while the Britons regretted the liberal rewards which could not satisfy the avarice of those haughty mercenaries. The causes of fear and hatred were inflamed into an irreconcilable quarrel. The Saxons flew to arms: and if they perpetrated a treacherous massacre during the security of a feast, they destroyed the reciprocal confidence which sustains the intercourse of peace and war.*

Hengist, who boldly aspired to the conquest of Britain, exhorted his countrymen to embrace the glorious opportunity: he painted in lively colours the fertility of the soil, the wealth of the cities, the pusillanimous temper of the natives, and the convenient situation of a spacious solitary island, accessible on all sides to the Saxon fleets. The successive colonies which issued, in the period of a century, from the mouths of the Elbe, the Weser, and the Ehine, were principally composed of three valiant tribes or nations of Germany; the Jutes, the old Saxons, and the Angles.^ The Jutes, who fought under the peculiar banner of Hengist,

selves similar advantages, in the better cultivated regions, of which they had before vainly attempted to obtain possession. No invitations from the original inhabitants, no exile from their own homes, were required to urge them to the attack; these are all gratuitous, unproved assertions, quite out of the natural course of events.—Ed.1

* Nennius imputes to the Saxons the murder of three hundred British chiefs; a crime not unsuitable to their savage manners. But we are not obliged to believe (See Jeffrey of Monmouth, l . 8, c. 9—12,) that Stonehenge is their monument, which the giants had formerly transported from Africa to Ireland, and which was removed to Britain by the order of Ambrosius, and the art of Merlin.

+ [Bede alone (Ecc. Hist. p. 24, Bohn's edit.) makes the followers of Hengist to be Jutes, in which Gibbon, Turner, and other historians

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

assumed the merit of leading their countrymen in the paths of glory, and of erecting in Kent, the first independent kingdom. The fame of the enterprise was attributed to the primitive Saxons; and the common laws and language of the conquerors are described by the national appellation of a people, which, at the end of four hundred years, produced the first monarchs of South Britain. The Angles were distinguished by their numbers and their success; and they claimed the honour of fixing a perpetual name on the countrv, of which they occupied the most ample portion. The barbarians, who followed the hcpes of rapine, either on the land or sea, were insensibly blended with this triple confederacy; the Frisians, who had been tempted by their vicinity to the British shores, might balance, during a short space, the strength and reputation of the native Saxons; the Banes, the Prussians, the Bugians, are faintly described; and some adventurous Runs, who had wandered as far as the Baltic, might embark on board the German vessels, for the conquest

have too blindly trusted to him. He did not write till two hundred and fifty years after the event; and probably mistook the traditional generic terra, Gothm or Guten, for its corrupted provincial form of Juten. He also contradicts himself, for he says, in the beginning of the same chapter (book 1, ch. 15), that the invitation was given to "the nation of the Angles or Saxons;" and he afterwards marks the order of their arrival in these words: "those who came over were three of the most powerful nations of Germany—Saxons, Angles, and Jutes." The Saxon Chronicle (Bohn, p. 309) says, that the Saxons gave the names of Sussex and Wessex to the next kingdoms that wero founded, and that they " sent to the Angles." It cannot be doubted that these first Saxons were fellow-countrymen of their Kentish forerunners, by whose success they were animated to follow their example. The intelligence of Roman weakness, which first set them in motion, of course reached the banks of the Weser, the Elbe, and the Eyder, long before it could penetrate to Jutland. It is thus from the mouths of those rivers, that the first Saxon invaders of Britain issued. Their reported good-fortune drew after them their more northern neighbours, the Angles, from the " narrow-land," and then the Jutes from the remotest extremity of the long peninsula. It is highly improbable, that there should have been coalesced with them any distinct body of Huns, who had never been addicted to sea-roaming habits. Of the Frisians, on the contrary, from the marsh-lands of the Ems, there may have been many. At the present day, the language of the Vrieslanders approaches very nearly to some provincial dialects in England. At a subsequent period, numerous hosts of Danes came to claim a share in the spoil. Then the Norwegians, or Northmen, were stimulated to seek like adventures, and from their settlements in France, came at last to swell the tide of Gothic mind, that had been poured into our island. This, taking into itself such portions of the


of a new world.* But this arduous achievement was not prepared or executed by the union of national powers. Each intrepid chieftain, according to the measure of his fame and fortunes, assembled his followers; equipped a fleet of three, or perhaps of sixty, vessels; chose the place of the attack; and conducted his subsequent operations according to the events of the war, and the dictates of his private interest. In the invasion of Britain many heroes vanquished and fell; but only seven victorious leaders assumed, or at least maintained, the title of kings. Seven independent thrones, the Saxon heptarchy, were founded by the conquerors, and seven families, one of which has been continued, by female succession, to our present sovereign, derived their equal and sacred lineage from Woden, the god of war. It has been pretended that this republic of kings was moderated by a general council and a supreme magistrate. But such an artificial scheme of policy is repugnant to the rude and turbulent spirit of the Saxons: their laws are silent; and their imperfect annals afford only a dark and bloody prospect of intestine discord.f

A monk, who, in the profound ignorance of human life, has presumed to exercise the office of historian, strangely disfigures the state of Britain at the time of its separation from the Western empire. GildasJ describes in florid lan

Celtic, as had not retreated into the northern, western, and southwestern highlands, formed the national character and founded the national institutions, so eloquently described by Mr. Hallam, in the introductory passages to his chapter on "the Constitutional History of England." To watch the working of this element in England and Germany, is a study, with which are associated the highest interests of our nature and the fairest hopes of our race.—Ed.] * All these

tribes are expressly enumerated by Bede (1. 1, c. 15, p. 52; 1. 5, c. 9, p. 190); and though I have considered Mr. Whitaker's remarks (Hist, of Manchester, vo1 . ii, p. 538—543), I do not perceive the absurdity of supposing that the Frisians, &c., were mingled with the Anglo-Saxons.

+ Bede has enumerated seven kings, two Saxons, a Jute, and four Angles, who successively acquired in the heptarchy an indefinite supremacy of power and renown. But their reign was the effect not of law, but of conquest; and he observes, in similar terms, that one of them subdued the isles of Man and Anglesey; and that another imposed a tribute on the Scots and Picts (Hist. Eccles. 1. 2, c. 5, p. 83). [The Bretwalda (Wielder of Britain) appears to have had no authority beyond the influence of personal character. The first who is said to have been thus distinguished, was iElla, king of Sussex, the smallest and weakest of the Saxon kingdoms.—Ed.]

t See Gildas de Excidio Britannise, c. 1, p. 1, edit. Gale.



guage the improvements of agriculture, the foreign trade which flowed with every tide into the Thames and the Severn, the solid and lofty construction of public and private edifices: he accuses the sinful luxury of the British people; of a people, according to the same writer, ignorant of the most simple arts, and incapable, without the aid of the Romans, of providing walls of stone, or weapons of iron, for the defence of their native land.* Under the long dominion of the emperors, Britain had been insensibly moulded into the elegant and servile form of a Roman province, whose safety was intrusted to a foreign power. The subjects of Honorius contemplated their new freedom with surprise and terror; they were left destitute of any civil or military constitution; and their uncertain rulers wanted either skill, or courage, or authority, to direct the public force against the common enemy. The introduction of the Saxons betrayed their internal weakness, and degraded the character both of the prince and people. Their consternation magnified the danger; the want of union diminished their resources; and the madness of civil factions was more solicitous to accuse, than to remedy the evils, which they imputed to the misconduct of their adversaries. Yet the Britons were not ignorant, they could not be ignorant, of the manufacture or the use of arms: the successive and disorderly attacks of the Saxons, allowed them to recover from their amazement, and the prosperous or adverse events of the war added discipline and 1 experience to their native valour.

While the continent of Europe and Africa yielded without resistance to the barbarians, the British island, alone and unaided, maintained a long, a vigorous, though an unsuccessful struggle, against the formidable pirates, who, almost at the same instant, assaulted the northern, the eastern, and the southern coasts. The cities which had been fortified with skill, were defended with resolution; the advantages of ground, hills, forests, and morasses, were diligently improved by the inhabitants.; the conquest of each district was purchased with blood; and the defeats of the Saxons are strongly attested by the discreet silence of their annalist. Hengist might hope to achieve the conquest of Britain; but

* Mr. Whitaker (History of Manchester, vol. ii, p. 503. 516) has smartly exposed this glaring absurdity, which had passed unnoticed by the general historians, as they were hastening to more interesting and important events.




his ambition, in an active reign of thirty-five years, was confined to the possession of Kent; and the numerous colony which he had planted in the north, was extirpated by the sword of the Britons. The monarchy of the West-Saxons was laboriously founded by the persevering efforts of three martial generations. The life of Cerdic, one of the bravest of the children of Woden, was consumed in the conquest of Hampshire, and the isle of Wight ;* and the loss which he sustained in the battle of mount Badon, reduced him to a state of inglorious repose. Kenric, his valiant son, advanced into Wiltshire; besieged Salisbury, at the time seated on a commanding eminence; and vanquished an army which advanced to the relief of the city. In the subsequent battle of Marlborough,f his British enemies displayed their military science. Their troops were formed in three lines; each line consisted of three distinct bodies; and the cavalry, the archers, and the pikemen, were distributed according to the principles of Roman tactics. The Saxons charged in one weighty column, boldly encountered with their short swords the long lances of the Britons, and maintained an equal conflict till the approach of night. Two decisive victories, the death of three British kings, and the redaction of Cirencester, Bath, and Gloucester, established the fame and power of Ceaulin, the grandson of Cerdic, who carried his victorious arm s to the banks of the Severn.

After a war of a hundred years, the independent Britons still occupied the whole extent of the western coast, from

* [Dorsetshire, not Hampshire, was the first territory of which Kerdio made himself master. He landed and afterwards received hia reinforcements at Charmouth, now the small haven of the river Char, whose alluvial valley was formerly a sheltered harbour. (De Luc's Geological Travels in England, vol. ii, p. 87) Cernemuth, the original Saxon name of this place, as seen in the Doomsday Book, was confounded by some ignorant monk with Gernemuth, now Yarmouth, at the mouth of the Norfolk Yare, and following him, a long line of ancient chroniclers and later topographers, antiquarians, and historians, from Robert of Gloucester to Fabian, Holinshed, Spelman, Gale, Camden, Gibson, even Gough, and, with some hesitation, Mr. Turner himself, have fixed on our eastern coast the Kerdicksore of the Saxon Chronicle (Bohn'a edition, p. 311), where, in 495, Kerdic disembarked the crews of his first five ships, and in 514, his nephews, Stuffa and Wihtgar, brought three " shipfuls" more, to found the kingdom of Wessex. The absurdity of the prevaling notion, and the origin of the error, are shown in some Geological and Historical Observations on the Eastern Valleys of Norfolk, published at Norwich, in 1827.—Ed.]

+ At Beran-birig, or Barbury castle, near Marlborough. The Saxon

« ForrigeFortsett »