portreeve and aldermen as their executive officers, elected by them, regulated the affairs of their boroughs, in trade and police, independently of any direct supervision on the part of the crown or its officers, and without any appeal on the part of the inhabitants except through the courts of law, when cases arose of an illegal character. The tendency of these institutions was republican or democratic, rather than monarchical; and the election of members to the House of Commons being vested in the boroughs, they returned to Parliament, for the most part, those patriots by whom the battle of the Constitution was fought. Charles II. made an attempt to get the boroughs, returning members to Parliament, under the influence of the crown, by an attack upon their ancient charters, and by forcing or persuading the burgesses to accept new charters; but he did not disturb their municipal authority. That has now been regulated and brought under one system by the act to provide for the regulation of the municipal corporations in England and Wales. It vests in the inhabitant householders rated to the relief of the poor, the election of burgesses, from whom the mayor and alderman are elected. The mayor becomes a justice of the peace, and returning officer of the borough at elections of members of Parliament; and the mayor, aldermen, and burgesses are the council of the borough, in whom, or a majority in case of division, all authority is vested. They are empowered to make rates on the inhabitants for watching, lighting, and paving the borough, to appoint constables, to make by-laws, and, in general, to regulate the municipal affairs of the borough; and all without the control or supervision (except in the disposal of their property) of any other central authority than the courts of law and equity.

“ The affairs of the counties are, in like manner, intrusted to the management of their principal inhabitants. The magistrates appointed by the crown, through the medium of the lord-lieutenant, and consisting of the principal landowners of the county, regulate the county affairs by a system of self-government. Assembled in their court of quarter sessions, they have jurisdiction to try small felonies, and to decide appeals from the several parishes of the county, in regard to rates and assessments for the relief of and the settlement of the poor. They regulate, in sessions or at county boards, the construction and repair of bridges, public roads, shire halls, prisons, and lunatic asylums; and they superintend the apprehension, conveyance, and prosecution of criminals, the expenses of witnesses, and of the county police. For these, in quarter sessions, they make county rates on the freeholders. These important duties are discharged by persons resident within the counties, and who are necessarily the most considerable contributors to the rates; and over whose acts there is no other central control than the courts of law and equity, when cases arise in which the legality of their acts is questioned.

“The several parishes of the kingdom exercise self-government in parochial affairs, by the election, from the inhabitants, of churchwardens and overseers, who administer the laws for the relief of the poor, and of boards of parishioners, who discharge the various duties of the acts for the repair of the highways and the sewers, and for the preservation of health. The magnitude of the funds raised and distributed for the relief of the poor, throughout the kingdom, and the effect of their distribution on the public prosperity, made it necessary to adopt a uniform system of management and relief; and therefore the functions of the parochial boards for relief of the poor are exercised under the superintendence of a supreme poor-law board, appointed by the crown, but responsible to Parliament. Its president is usually in the cabinet, and a member of the House of Commons. There is also a supreme board of health, but with these exceptions, the administration of the local affairs of each division and subdivision of the kingdom vested in its inhabitants, with an authority controlled only by the law and the courts of justice.- RowLand's Manual of the English Constitution, p. 670–872."

3. The following, from Blackstone, will serve to show the influence of the Saxon courts in establishing the present local customs of England :

“ The second branch of the unwritten laws of England are particular customs, or laws which affect only the inhabitants of particular districts.

“These particular customs, or some of them, are without doubt the remains of that multitude of local customs before mentioned, out of which the common law, as it now stands, was collected at first by king Alfred, and afterward by King Edgar and Edward the Confessor; each district mutually sacrificing some of its own special usages, in order that the whole kingdom might enjoy the benefit of one uniform and universal system of laws. But, for reasons that have been now long forgotten, particular counties, cities, towns, manors, and lordships, were very early indulged with the privilege of abiding by their own customs, in contradistinction to the rest of the nation at large: which privilege is confirmed to them by several acts of Parliament.

“Such is the custom of gavelkind in Kent and some other parts of the kingdom (though perhaps it was also general till the Norman conquest), which ordains, among other things, that not the eldest son only of the father shall succeed to his inheritance, but all the sons alike; and that, though the ancestor be attainted and hanged, yet the heir shall succeed to his estate, without any escheat to the lord. Such is the custom that prevails in divers ancient boroughs, and therefore called borough-english, that the youngest son shall inherit the estate in preference to all his elder brothers. Such is the custom in other boroughs that a widow shall be entitled, for her dower, to all her husband's lands; whereas at the common law she shall be endowed of one third part only. Such also are the special and particular customs of manors, of which every one has more or less, and which bind all the copyhold and customary tenants that hold of the said manors.-Such likewise is the custom of holding divers inferior courts, with power of trying causes, in cities and trading towns, the right of holding which, when no royal grant can be shown, depends entirely upon immemorial and established usage. Such, lastly, are many particular customs within the city of London, with regard to trade, apprentices, widows, orphans, and a variety of other matters.

“ All these are contrary to the general law of the land, and are good only by special usage; though the customs of London are also confirmed by act of Parliament."-BLACKSTONE's Commentaries, i. 74, 75.






The Saxon and the feudal systems were exact antipodes. The former, as we have already shown, was one of independent local sovereignties in the hands of freemen. The latter was a rising series of consolidated military powers, reaching its climax in a central monarchy which tolerated not one freeman.

The feudal system sprang up upon the continent of Europe, among the German tribes of Normans, Franks, Burgundians, Visigoths, and Lombards, who swept down upon the falling Roman Empire, and divided its vast territories among themselves. It is not our purpose to give its history. It doubtless had its moving cause in the custom of the German warriors, which we have mentioned in the previous chapter, of joining themselves to military chiefs, whom for their martial glory they regarded with an almost superstitious reverence. In their invasions of the south, these chiefs in like manner united under various leaders, who on their conquest of the several provinces, became their kings. Here it was not long ere the civilization of the vanquished gained upon the victors, who without much difficulty adopted the religion and laws of the Empire. Under the teachings of the Christian priesthood-always forward in supporting kingly and imperial prerogative-the sovereigns and their subjects learned to look upon the royal office in a yet more lofty point of view. The ceremonies of the church in the anointing and investiture of these barbarian princes made a strong impression on the warm imaginations of the newly converted Northmen. Henceforth the king became to them God's representative in civil matters, as the priest was in the matters of the faith, and, next to God and holy church, they gave implicit submission to the anointed king, who was supposed to hold his office by divine appointment. Meanwhile, jurists learned in the law were not behind the priesthood in supporting and increasing the pretensions of the kings. They taught that these barbarian sovereigns were the successors of the Cæsars, and that all the high prerogatives of the imperial crown were now legitimately vested in them. Moreover, they had gained their title by conquest, and had consequently every right claimed by the emperors in subjugated territories. Hence the lands they had subdued were the king's individual property. This was a mighty cornerstone of the feudal system; and upon this, with the other notion, that the king's right was a right divine, that is, a right of God, the whole tremendous fabric may be said to have been based. But though he was the absolute proprietor of all the lands within his territories, it was impossible on any system for a single man personally to enjoy so wide a domain. The lands of the kingdom were therefore distributed among the warriors who had followed him. Not that they thereby were invested with the ownership of these lards. The ownership (dominium directum) rested with the king. But they received the actual possession and profitable use of them (dominium utile). Thus the king was able to reward his faithful retainers, by making to them grants of land under the name of benefices.

Under these beneficial grants we find the first historic traces of the feudal system. The benefice was not an absolute gift vesting the recipient with the ultimate ownership; that still remained in the king, and the grant was liable to be revoked at any disloyal or hostile act of the beneficiary. In return for this gift to him from the monarch, the subject was bound to give the king, when called upon, his military service and aid, from time to time, as they should be required. Thus the favored subject entered into the possession of the land, and enjoyed all of its benefits as though he were the absolute owner: still, as he was not the absolute owner, he

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