Слике страница

of the state. He summoned representatives of the towns as well as of the counties to meet him. He urged them to grant money; they petitioned for relief from various grievances. If the king wanted to get their money he must listen to their petitions. When these petitions were granted, they became laws. In this way the “Parliament,” as the gathering of representatives was called, came to have a share in making laws. The state came to include merchants as well as warriors.



ODAY most of us live without fear of being attacked by raiders from the neighborhood; we do not expect to be robbed when we go on a journey nor to have our homes broken into while we are asleep. We do not carry weapons when we go to our work, and perhaps have two or three armed guards to protect us; nor do we build our houses in such a way that we can command the entrance with a gun. We make windows large enough to let in light instead of making narrow slits in the wall. If we sell goods to a man who refuses to pay, or if we work for a man who does not give us our wages, we can sue him, and if we can make it clear to the judge and jury that the man is attempting to defraud us we may expect that the court will compel him to pay his debt. All this is part of what we mean by peace and order. It is now so common that we take it as a matter of course. But it has not always been so. It was the state which undertook first to defend the country against foes and raids from without and then to keep peace and maintain good order within. In tracing the progress of the state in performing these tasks, illustrations will be taken chiefly from early England, because our own institutions—our laws and government— came to us largely from that country. (1) The state gave to its members greater security

Protection from foreign enemies

from outside enemies. The early clan, as we have seen,
tried to protect its members by revenging injuries, and
it had customs which kept order among its members.
But there was more or less constant quarreling between
clans. There was no certainty that a man could
harvest his crop. His hut might be burned any night.
He dared not go beyond the bounds of his own clan,
for then he had no protection. It might seem at first
that it would not make things any better to have a
king and army, for the king and army were at first
really plunderers on a grand scale. Yet, as matters
worked out, there was a decided gain. There was still
fighting, but the state substituted wars between the
fighting specialists for petty feuds. The wars did not
discourage all farming nor break up the life of the
common man so seriously as did feuds. Trade and
travel over a large area would be kept open, even if
England was at war with France or Scotland. The
king and his band would protect their own country, and
they were strong enough to keep out foreign raids and
keep down robbers, thieves, and murderers.
The question might indeed be raised: Did it, after all,
matter much to the common people whether the king
who ruled them called himself king of England or king
of France? Was it not as bad to be squeezed by one
as to be plundered by the other? When we look back
and note how men could get only a little more than they
needed for food and shelter; when we consider how little
they have had to spend for comforts or for education,
and then think what an enormous sum has been used
in fighting and in preparation for fighting—it seems
as though common men had paid a high price for defense
from foreign powers. Indeed, the common people often
took little interest in the king's wars. Nevertheless
there is one great difference between being ruled by the
king of the country and being raided by a foreign king.
Foreigners would come, kill, plunder, and go away with
no idea of sparing any one for another raid. The king
of the country would wish his people to be at least pros-
perous enough to increase his power against other
kings. And, as a matter of fact, the king came to feel
pride in his country. So, although supporting a king
was an expensive business, it was apparently the only
way to provide security when men were roaming about,
looking for plunder, and thinking no more of robbing
and killing other groups than of hunting deer or bears.
(2) The state kept order among its subjects and
protected them from robbery and violence. In early
times in England there was no government strong enough
to protect innocent people from being robbed or killed
if they went from home or from their town. When the
Norman kings conquered England, and began to rule
the country far more strictly than any English or
Danish king had ruled, one of the first steps was to
make order. “The good order that King William made
must not be forgotten,” said the Peterborough Chron-
icle. “It was such that any man who was himself aught
might travel from end to end of the land unharmed;
and no man durst kill another, however great the injury
which he had received.” Order was the first thing to be
secured; men could not trade or travel unless they
could be safe and keep their goods safe while going
from place to place.
The way in which it came about that to kill or rob
was thought of as not merely an injury to the victim
or his family but also a wrong to the public is very
curious. There was an old doctrine that a man had a
right to be free from attack in his own house. To

Keeping order


assault him there, was a breach of his peace. The origin of the feeling about this may go clear back to the animal world. A dog, or even so timid a beast as a rabbit, will fight better on his own ground. The aggressor frequently acts as if he knew that he was out of his own bounds.

So the king would have an especial right to have peace in his own house. It was an easy step from this to extend the house that the king lived in to the house or precincts of the king's court; then to the king's highway, to the king's servants, and to the markets held under his protection. Finally, what was a privilege of the few, and of a small region, was held to cover all men and all places in the kingdom. If a man wanted to get the powerful help of the king's courts, he could claim that the king's peace had been broken. This made it far more dangerous to rob and kill. At first this "peace” of the king was supposed to hold only while the king was alive. When a king died there was no king's peace until the new king was crowned. Hence, there was sometimes a sort of " open period ” as we say now with reference to shooting game. When Henry I died in 1135 “ there was tribulation in the land, for every man that could forthwith robbed another."

Besides punishing crime, the state aimed also in many ways to prevent crime. A curfew law compelled all to cover up their fires and stay in after eight o'clock in the evening. One of the chief means of keeping order was a system of small responsible groups. By an ingenious change of the old principle that a man's kin were responsible, the state required every man, with a few exceptions, to belong to a small group called “ frankpledge,” or sometimes " tithing,” which could be held responsible. When any man was accused of a

Curfew and frankpledge

« ПретходнаНастави »