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of; they were trained, fed, sheltered and protected; and there was an eye upon them when they strayed. None were wild, unless they ran wild wilfully, and in defiance of controul. None were beneath the notice of the priest, nor placed out of the possible reach of his instruction and his care. But how large a part of your population are like the dogs at Lisbon and Constantinople, unowned, unbroken to any useful purpose, subsisting by chance or by prey, living in filth, mischief and wretchedness; a nuisance to the community while they live, and dying miserably at last! This evil had its beginning in my days; it is now approaching fast to its consummation.
DECAY OF THE FEUDAL SYSTEM.-EDWARD VI.
I had retired to my library, as usual, after dinner, and while I was wishing for the appearance of my ghostly visitor, he became visible. Behold me to your wish! said he. Thank you, I replied, for those precious words.
SIR THOMAS MORE. Wherefore precious ?
MONTESINOS. Because they show that spirits who are in bliss perceive our thoughts; ...that that communion with the departed for which the heart yearns in its moods of intensest feeling, is in reality attained when it is desired.
SIR THOMAS MORE. You deduce a large inference from scanty premises. As if it were not easy to know without any super-human intuition that you would wish for the arrival of one whose com
pany you like, at a time when you were expecting it.
SIR THOMAS MORE. All that the words necessarily imply. For the rest, crede quod habeas et habes, according to the scurvy tale which makes my friend Erasmus a horse-stealer, and fathers Latin rhymes upon him. But let us take up the thread of our discourse; or, as we used to say in old times, “ begin it again and mend it, for it is neither mass nor matins.”
MONTESINOS. You were saying that the evil of a vagrant and brutalized population began in your days,* and is approaching to its consummation at this time.
SIR THOMAS MORE. The decay of the feudal system produced it. When armies were no longer raised upon that system, soldiers were disbanded at the end of a war, as they are now; that is to say, they were turned adrift to fare as they could, ...to
* Harrison says, “ it is not yet full threescore years since this trade began; but how it bath prospered since that time it is easy to judge, for they are now supposed, of one sex and another, to amount not above 10,000 persons." - Holinshed, i. 309.
work if they could find employment; otherwise to beg, starve, live upon the alms of their neighbours, or prey upon a wider community in a manner more congenial to the habits and temper of their old vocation. In consequence of the gains which were to be obtained by inclosures and sheep-farming, families were unhoused and driven loose upon the country: These persons, and they who were emancipated from villanage, or who had in a more summary manner emancipated themselves, multiplied in poverty and wretchedness. Lastly, owing to the fashion for large households of retainers, great numbers of men were trained up in an idle and dissolute way of life, liable at any time to be cast off when age or accident invalided them, or when the master of the family died; and then if not ashamed to beg, too lewd to work, and ready for any kind of mischief. Owing to these co-operating causes, a huge population of outcasts was produced, numerous enough seriously to infest society, yet not so large as to threaten its subversion.
MONTESINOS. - A derangement of the existing system produced them then; they are a constituent part of the system now. With you they were, as you have called them, outcasts: with us, to þorrow an
illustration from foreign institutions, they have become a cast. But during two centuries the evil appears to have decreased. Why was this?
..!!.:;: SIR THOMAS MORE.ins Because it was perceived to be an evil, and could never at any time be mistaken for a healthful symptom. And because circumstances tended to suspend its progress. The habits of these unhappy persons being at first wholly predatory, the laws proclaimed a sort of crusade against them, and great and inhuman riddance was made by the executioner. Foreign service opened a drain in the succeeding reigns: many also were drawn off by the spirit of maritime adventure, preferring the high seas to the high way, as a safer course of plundering. Then came an age of civil war, with its large demand for human life. Meanwhile as the old arrangements of society crumbled and decayed, new ones were formed. The ancient fabric was repaired in some parts and modernized in others. And from the time of the Restoration the people supposed their institutions to be stable, because after long and violent convulsions they found themselves at rest, and the transition which was then going on, was slow, silent, and unperceived." The process of converting slaves and villeins into servants and free peasantry had