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of the nation which had anything to say about government was less than one in twenty of the people over twenty-one years of age. In the boroughs the case was worse. The representatives were sometimes chosen by the town officers, sometimes by those who had the “freedom of the town " (gained by membership in the merchants’ gild), sometimes by those who owned certain houses or lots (the voting right was transferred to the new owner. if the property changed hands). So it was often a very small group that named the representatives, and sometimes the vote was “owned ” or controlled entirely by the large landlord, or by the king. When we consider how small a proportion of the people had any actual share in the government, we wonder that the English people secured as many rights as they had. On the other hand, we are not surprised that the common law for many years treated the villeins as having no property rights, and that Parliament passed a series of laws of a kind which we should call “class-legislation.” Such was the act forbidding children to learn any craft if they had followed the plow to the age of twelve years; the act forbidding the tenant to send his boy to school except by consent of the lord; the acts fixing wages and compelling laborers to work at the wages fixed; the provision that unmarried persons under thirty not having any trade and not belonging to a nobleman’s household might be compelled to labor at the request of any person using an art or mystery (a trade); and that persons between twelve and sixty, not otherwise employed, might be compelled to serve by the year in husbandry, and that unmarried women between twelve and forty might be compelled to serve likewise. It was also prescribed that
persons of certain classes must not leave the parish
The liberty, which depends upon education and 6. Freedom self-control, was for a long time left either to the from church or to individuals to work out for themselves. * Early schools and universities were largely established and fear by the church. The great universities, Paris, Oxford, and Cambridge, date back to the twelfth century. The cloisters and abbeys maintained schools for training monks. The gentry had private tutors. The common people had very little opportunity. When the Bible was translated into English and men came to believe that they ought to study it for themselves, a new motive came in to stimulate the desire of the common man to read. Another influence which aided education was the growth of trade, for some knowledge of arithmetic and reading was very convenient for keeping accounts and carrying on business.
The growth of science and discovery as distinct from education was largely due to individual men who had the passion for understanding the world. When the telescope enabled man to see the moon and other heavenly bodies more clearly he began to realize that the
sky which used to be regarded as the dwelling place of all kinds of evil and dangerous spirits, was really the same kind of place as the earth. A great load of superstitious fear was thus taken off the minds of men. And when Newton discovered the laws of gravitation men felt that they could really count upon the moon and planets to move in a regular and uniform way. By this means, man was becoming free of his world, that is, he felt that he understood it better, and was not so fearful. But in this progress of education and science the state at first had little part. Not until recently has the state undertaken to establish universities and public schools of all kinds, which are now so important for the maintenance of this sixth kind of liberty. In conclusion, then, of this sketch of how the membership of the state has grown, we may say that up to the time when the early American colonists left England, the national state governed all the people, but only a small part of the people were full members of it. Beginning with the king and his warriors and advisers, the governing class had come to include the larger landholders, and the more prosperous merchants and craftsmen. The great bulk of those who rented farms or worked on them, and of those who lived in towns, had no share in making their laws or carrying on the state. Under a good king there was sometimes a degree of government for the people; there was no government by the people. Before there could be democracy the state must include all.
PROGRESS OF LIBERTY: FROM SPECIAL
OW have men gained these various kinds of H liberty which we have sketched in the preceding chapter? We may say broadly that they have gained them: (1) By fighting for them; (2) by bargaining for them; (3) by appeals to reason and sympathy as voiced by prophets, poets, and philosophers. Both the first two methods have usually secured “liberties" or privileges for certain groups—barons, or “freemen,” or white men, or men as contrasted with women. Hence we shall have to trace also how liberties won for the few have been extended to larger and larger numbers, and it will be convenient to speak of the influence of prophets, poets, and philosophers last of all. We consider in this chapter the methods of fighting and bargaining. It is natural to think first of the method of gaining liberty by fighting, and to suppose that it has been the most important method. It is, however, only under certain conditions that fighting has accomplished much for any of the kinds of liberty except national independence. It is easy to exaggerate its importance because our histories tell so much more about wars than about bargains, or the work of the courts, or the growth of new ideas about men’s rights. It is no doubt true also that a war is so dramatic that it appeals to our
How liberty has been gained
1. Gaining liberty
imagination and feeling and is more vividly realized than the conflicts between ideas. We read how the English barons at Runnymede compelled King John to grant them the privileges which are set down in the Great Charter. Or we think of the Peasant Revolt when the peasants of England, who were then mainly serfs, suddenly marched to London and demanded emancipation. Or of the war in England between King Charles I and the Parliament, as the result of which the king was beheaded. Or of the American Revolution or French Revolution. Some of these did accomplish something; some of them, like the Peasant Revolt, failed. Another Peasant Revolt, which took place in Germany in 1525, seemed for a time likely to succeed, but it ended in the triumph of the lords, who put to death 100,000 or more of the peasants, and left them worse off than ever, so that they remained serfs for more than two hundred years after it.
Why has a fight for freedom so often failed? The case of the Peasants' Revolt in England in 1981 is instructive. A great body of peasants, who at that time were villeins, marched to London and demanded of the king, “ We will that you free us forever, us and our lands, and that we be nevermore named or held for serfs.” They were promised this by the king and even given charters of freedom, but (1) they had no friend in the actual government and they were not themselves ready to upset the whole state and rule themselves. They had, therefore, no security except the king's word. As soon as they had scattered and the king was no longer afraid of them, he refused to keep his promise, and when shown his own charters, answered scornfully: “ Villeins you were and villeins you are. In bondage you shall abide, and that not your old bondage but a
Why revolts fail