and the most able men to enter the lists for honor and profit. A new creative vigor appeared afterward in every field of human merit. Activity and enterprise became the characteristic qualities of the nation; and the different classes, attaching themselves to various pursuits, infused the spirit, and enlarged the boundaries, of improvement in all. In war, in religion, literature, trade, and amusements, the Anglo-Normans became equally active and indefatigable.

The intermixture of the Norman-French with the Anglo-Saxon tongue formed the modern English language, superior to either of its parents in copiousness, energy, and expression.

William is generally supposed to have established the coever-fu, or curfew, by which, on the ringing of a bell at eight o'clock in the evening, all fires were commanded to be put out. Its original design is said to have been to prevent nightly meetings for conspiracies. A more important undertaking, by which the Conqueror has left a memorial of his reign to the present generation, was the compilation of the Domesday Book. This was the greatest financial operation of his life. It was a general inquest and survey, taken throughout the country, of the quantity of lands chargeable with military service; with a record of the great proprietors, the servile population, and established payments. It was designed to ascertain the legal rights of the crown, and to afford a knowledge of the state of the property of the country. The facts required were, for the most part, verified by the oaths of a competent number of persons in each district. The original of the record thus formed is still preserved in the Exchequer at London.



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THE despotism of William the Conqueror, and the feudal customs established by him in England, resulted at times in the grossest abuses in government, by which both the barons and the people found themselves op. pressed to an intolerable degree. The line had not yet been drawn between the prerogatives of the crown and the rights of the people ; both remained in the undefined state of prescription and tradition. In all the Northern nations, great councils had been attached to their monarchies from the early period when they emerged from the forests of Germany; and the ruling chief, combined with his council, offers us an image of government in one of its rudest forms. The de. struction of the Anglo-Saxon nobility, in their revolts against William, had deprived the country of the actual members of the ancient Wittenagemotes, but did not put an end to the institution itself. The Norman barons held themselves to be as independent as the Saxon chiefs, and they surrounded their sovereign in the national council, after the Conquest, in the same manner as before.

Notwithstanding this, the royal privileges, being still undefined, were often stretched into unlimited use, varying in their extent according to the ambition and arbitrary spirit of the reigning prince. A wise monarch will never push his prerogative to extremes that may provoke his people to question its justice. Weaker princes, on the contrary, from a childish love of all the external marks of power, are fond of obtruding their authority on every occasion, and thus perpetually hazard their prerogatives by abusing them. King John, the successor of Richard the Lion-hearted, was a sovereign of this character, and, by a series of obstinate attempts to rule by his arbitrary will, instead of by law and justice, he brought the power of the crown into direct collision with the nobility, which then constituted the most efficient part of the nation. To this collision is to be traced the origin of the celebrated Magna Charta, or the Great Charter, famous in modern history, as the basis on which are founded the liberties of the English nation.

The reign of John had-already been marked by a succession of misfortunes and disgraces, originating

the vices and imbecility of the sovereign. His conduct toward his brother Richard was ungrateful and perfidious, and he displayed all the treachery of a tortuous ambition, without any of the talents which have sometimes attended it. By the murder of Prince Arthur he lost Normandy; and as messenger after messenger announced to him the capture of his castles and towns by Philip of France, he only exclaimed, with a coarse laugh, “Let him take them, I will get them back some time or other." By the loss of his French territories he obtained the opprobrious nickname of 6 Lackland.” He next involved himself in a quarrel with the Pope, and, to escape from his difficulties, made a formal cession of his crown to that prelate, and consented to receive it back as a gift. This transaction caused such disgust to the nation, that it proved, in the end, one of the main causes of the overthrow of the papal power in England. The vices and defects of John's character seemed destined to be the instruments of much ultimate good to his subjects.

The king, who could learn no wisdom from experience, became more violent in his measures to enforce obedience to his arbitrary will, in proportion as he found the temper of the people exasperated by his misconduct. At length he spurned all laws, in the pursuit of his revenge, and forced the barons upon extraordinary measures for their own protection and defence. On the 20th of November, 1214, they assembled at the abbey of St. Edmunds, under pretence of celebrating the festival of the patron saint, but with the real object of maturing a plan of future operations without awakening suspicion. Many secret conferences were held ; the various liberties for which they were to contend were agreed upon and defined, and they determined to go in a body and demand them when the king should hold his court on the next Christmas. Before they separated, they advanced singly to the high altar, and swore an oath to withdraw their allegiance from the king in case he should resist their claims, and to levy war against him till he should grant them. On Christmas the barons had no opportunity to put their scheme in execution. John, who was holding his court at Worcester, having perhaps received intelligence of the design, suddenly left the place, rode to London, and shut himself up in the Temple. The confederates followed him in great numbers, and on the feast of Epiphany presented their demands. The king at first assumed an air of superiority, and insisted not only that they should recede from their claims, but that they should assure him, under hand and seal, that

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