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from one town to another was by a covered
But in what condition were the labouring classes ?
In slavery, I suppose. When the Romans first attacked the island, it was believed at Rome, that slaves were the only booty which Britain could afford; and slaves, no doubt, must have been the staple commodity for which its ports were visited. Different tribes had at different times established themselves here by conquest, and wherever settlements are thus made, slavery is the natural consequence. It was a part of the Roman economy; and when the Saxons carved out their kingdoms with the sword, the slaves, and their masters too, if any survived, became the property of the new lords of the land, * like the cattle who pastured upon it. It is not likely even that the Saxons should have brought artificers of any kind with them, smiths perhaps alone excepted. Trades of every description | must have been practised by the
* It is to Sir Richard Hoare that we are indebted for this curious fact. In the course of those researches, which he has pursued so zealously and successfully, with the aid of that remarkable person, Mr. Cunnington, he ascertained the existence of “ covered-ways or lines of communication from one British town to another. Their formation is totally different from that of the ramparts constructed for boundaries, and evidently has not been raised for barriers of defence; the bank being of an equal beight on each side, and the area of the ditch broader in proportion and flatter. The frequent occurrence of these on our downs has opened a wide field for reflection and conjecture; much time was spent in doubt and uncertainty ; till at length their connexion with the British towns became apparent, and ascertained most clearly the original cause of their formation and destination."— Ancient Wiltshire, 19.
* Canciani supposes that the Liberi Barones were the old freemen of the barbarous nations, who thus distinguished themselves from those who were newly incorporated or manumitted, and this he thinks is the origin of nobility; for the Adelings were of princely blood. It was the policy of the Lombards in particular, to augment their numbers by taking in slaves and making them free.-Præf. ad Barb. Leges. Ant. xii.
+ Fuller observes, that, though there is no mention of tradesmen in the Roll of Battle Abbey, such persons nevertheless came over with the Normans. “For,” he says,
soon would the bead of the best Mounsieur ake without a capper ; hands be tanned without a glover ; feet be foundred without a tanner, currier, shoemaker; whole body be starved, cold, without weaver, fuller, tailor; hungry, without baker, brewer, cook ; harbourless without mason, smith and carpenter. Say not, it was beneath the French gallantry to stoop to such mean employments, who found all these trades here amongst the English their vassals. For besides that nothing is base which is honest, and necessary for human society, such as are acquainted with the French, both ancient and modern, finicall humour, know they account our tailors, butchers, shoemakers, coblers, cooks,
Paul. Diac. lib. i. cap. 13.
slaves whom they found. The same sort of transfer ensued upon the Norman conquest. After that event, there could have been no fresh supply of domestic slaves, unless they were imported from Ireland, as well as carried thither for sale. That trade did not continue long. Emancipation was promoted by the clergy, and slavery was exchanged for vassalage, which in like manner gradually disappeared as the condition of the people improved.
SIR THOMAS MORE.
You are hurrying too fast to that conclusion. Hitherto more has been lost than gained in morals by the transition; and you will not maintain that any thing which is morally injurious,
slovens, compared to the exactness of their fancy and palate ; so that certainly such trades came over with them.
“But hear what our great antiquary * saith herein. In that most authenticall register, Doomsday book in the Exchequer, ye shall have Cocus, Aurifaber, Pictor, Pistor, Accipitrarius, Camerarius, Venator, Piscator, Medicus ; Cook, Goldsmith, Painter, Baker, Falconer, Chamberlain, Huntsman, Fisher, Leach, Marshall, Porter, and others, which then held land in capite, and without doubt left these names to their posterity ; albeit haply they are not mentioned in those tables of Battle Abbey, of such as came in at the conquest."-Church History, 171.
* Camden's Remains, p. 234.
can be politically advantageous. Vassalage I know is a word which bears no favourable acceptation in this liberal age; and slavery is in worse repute. But we must remember that slavery implies a very different state in different ages of the world, and in different stages of society.
MONTESINOS. In many parts of the east, and of the Mahommedan world, as in the patriarchal times, it is scarcely an evil. Among savages it is as little
In a luxurious state more vices are called into action, the condition of the slave depends more upon the temper of the owner, and the evil then predominates. But slavery is nowhere so bad as in commercial colonies, where the desire of gain hardens the heart: the basest appetites have free scope there; and the worst passions are under little restraint from law, less from religion, and none from public opinion.
SIR THOMAS MORE. You have omitted in this enumeration, that kind of slavery which existed in England.
The slavery of the feudal ages may perhaps be classed midway between the best description of that state and the worst. I suppose it to have been less humane than it generally is in
Turkey, less severe than it generally was in Rome and Greece. In too many respects the slaves were at the mercy of their lords. They might be put in irons and punished with stripes; they were sometimes branded; and there is proof that it has been the custom to yoke them in teams like cattle.
SIR THOMAS MORE.
Are you then, Montesinos, so much the dupe of words as to account among their grievances a mere practice of convenience ?
The reproof was merited. But I was about to say, that there is no reason to think their treatment was generally rigorous.
We do not hear of any such office among them as that of the Roman Lorarii, whose office appears by the dramatists to have been no sinecure. And it is certain that they possessed in the laws, in the religion, and probably in the manners of the country, a greater degree of protection than existed to alleviate the lot of the Grecian and Roman slaves.
SIR THOMAS MORE.
The practical difference between the condition of the feudal slave,* and of the labouring
* The Villani were not slaves, but copyholders, who paid rent in labour chiefly, as appears from Domesday Book, where