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CHAPTER I.

THE CONQUEST.

The Heptarchy a confused State. Conquest of England by the Duke of Normandy the last territorial Conquest in Western Europe. A Step gained towards Civilisation by the Results of the Conquest. Social State of England after that Event. Slavery under which the English People were held by William.

LIKE most other countries, England, in her early days, was subject to the attacks and conquests of foreign invaders, and also to internal commotions. The Heptarchy, a very disjointed political condition for an island like ours, had been dissolved in 828 by Egbert, King of Wessex, who, by conquest, assumed the sovereignty of the country, excepting only, if they may be called an exception, the kingdoms of Mercia, East Anglia, and Northumbria, whose chiefs he held as tributaries. To him succeeded a line of Saxon kings of England, interspersed by four Danish monarchs.

The Conquest (by William the Norman) thoroughly subjugated the Saxons; but, though deprived of all importance in the state, they still clung to the land, and, regardless of the confisca

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tion of their property, preferred even slavery to

*

expatriation. Their conquerors treated them with supreme scorn; and a century elapsed after the Norman Conquest before any Saxon was thought worthy to discharge the slightest public trust.

In England, however, the Saxons remained, constituting the numerical strength of the population. In spite of the unceasing efforts of William to extinguish all traces of their identity, the Saxon blood, and Saxon language, had in them too strong a vitality to be destroyed. Both kept a tenacious hold on the country; and, in the end, after grievous oppression, established themselves firmly as national characteristics, to which the descendants of the continental invaders were compelled to submit. Thus, England again, and for ever, became England; the Normans were absorbed into the general

"The former kings of England did grant great privileges to the lords by whose assistance they had conquered the country, and kept the common people in obedience; but these, in conjunction with the bishops, growing too headstrong, proved very troublesome." (Puffendorf, Introd. Hist. Europe, sect. 25. p. 159. 8vo. edit.) The great distribution of land in England seems to have been made by William shortly after his conquest. "He reserved an ample revenue for the crown; and in the general distribution of land among his followers, he kept possession of no less than 1,422 manors in different parts of England." (West's Inquiry into the Manner of Creating Peers, p. 24.) The following also confirms the fact:-"Having, by the sword, rendered himself master of all the lands in the kingdom, he would certainly in the partition retain a great proportion for his own share."- Hume's Hist. England, book i. chap. iv.

mass, and Saxon manners and Saxon laws were once more predominant after a lapse of years.

"The conquest of England by the Duke of Normandy, is the last territorial conquest that has taken place in the western part of Europe. This invasion having occurred at a time less remote from our own than that of the Germanic populations which, in the fifth century, dismembered the Roman Empire, the documents which we possess relative to all the particulars of it are much more numerous, and indeed are sufficiently complete to furnish a just idea of what a conquest was in the middle ages to show in what manner it was executed and maintained, what kind of spoliations and sufferings it imposed upon the conquered, and what were the moral and physical powers employed by the latter in re-acting against the invaders. Almost every nation of Europe has, in its present existence, something derived from the conquests of the middle ages. To those conquests most of them owe their geographical limits, the name which they bear, and, in a great measure, their internal constitution; that is, their distribution into orders and classes. The upper and lower classes, which were formerly struggling with each other and differing in their ideas of government, are, in several countries, no other than the conquering nations and the enslaved population of an earlier period. Thus, the sword of conquest, while changing the face of Europe, and the distribution

of its inhabitants into distinct nations, has left its original features in each nation created by the mixture of several races. The descendants of the invaders, when they had ceased to be a distinct people, remained a privileged class. They formed a warlike nobility, which, to prevent its own extinction, recruited its ranks from the ambitious, the adventurous, and the turbulent among the lower orders, and held dominion over the laborious and peaceable mass, until the termination of the military or feudal government resulting from the conquest. The invaded race, deprived of its property in the soil, of command, and of liberty-living not by arms, but by labour-dwelling not in castles, but in townsformed another society, co-existent with the military society of the conquerors. It appears that, preserved within the walls of their towns, the people directed their attention to the rude arts of the times, and endeavoured to increase their small share of industry, and thereby commenced a sort of imperfect civilisation: that class has risen in proportion to the decay of the feudal organisation of the nobility sprung from the race of the ancient conquerors, by natural descent, or by political affiliation."

The state of ignorance and barbarism in which the population was immersed in the days of the Heptarchy need scarcely be told; but the divisions.

* See Thierry's History of the Conquest of England by the Normans.

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