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Then, as regards modern times, I note
The notions about the very limited numbers of the abori. ginal British population;
Their supposed barbarous character, which seemed to suggest how easily a more cultivated race might displace them, and which made the English unwilling to think them their progenitors;
The very weighty fact of the language; and lastly. - .
That peculiar trait of the Teutonic race, the belief in its descent from gods, no matter that they were pagan gods, which makes each man resent, as a personal offence, everything that opposes bis god-like ideas and will; and which, when he is in the position of absolute conqueror, commanding the lives, liberties, customs, education, marriages, etc., of a mixed race, may gradually through a favourable combination of circumstances extend through the whole ; leavening even the nonTeutonic blood with the pleasant titillating fancy of the whole of humanity ranged as in a circle before the Superior one's eyes, humbly bending like the sheaves of corn of Joseph's brethren, while his own particular sheaf stands crect in the centre, lord of all.
The British population then, according to the popular notion, was very limited. Indeed! Julius Cæsar did not think so. If he, speaking from his own personal experience, may be supposed to know anything about the matter, the population' was 'infinite, the houses very numerous.'
At a later period (the time of Nero), and after immense losses by fighting against the Romans, Tacitus, speaking of tributary British chiefs in council, says they were reminded that if the Britons would but consider their own numbers, they would find that the Roman troops who were among them were but a paltry and inconsiderable force.
But the fact of the long continuance of the wars between the first military power of the world, and this despised British population, before a final conquest was achieved, ought to have shown the absurdity and shamelessness of the theory. To conquer Britain became with the Romans the culminating point of national glory. For this triumphal honours were granted by applauding senates, imperial coins stamped. Think of a Roman Emperor changing his name, in order to call him. self Britannicus, in memory of the Roman Conquests. Tacitus says of one of the decisive battles, in which the Britons under
Boadicea were defeated, 'the glory won on that day was equal to that of the most renowned victories of the ancient Romans. We can easily understand that when we hear of such an incident as a Roman Legion being almost annihilated by a single and sudden stroke, while on its way to reinforce its besieged countrymen ; when we recall Sererns's loss of fifty thousand men in a single campaign; or when we remember that the Roman conquest was not finally completed in less than a hundred and thirty years; though if the time of the last actual fighting be the limit, then more than two and a half centuries were required.
Judge then how curiously untrue is the notion of the aborigines being few or weak. Let me add two portentous facts. When the revolted Britons under Boadicea attacked London and St. Albans, which were occupied by the Romans, and Roman British, and British in submission or alliance, they killed seventy thousand persons. And then when the Romans were able to retaliate effectively by a tremendous battle, victory, and slaughter, they killed, according to Tacitus, some eighty thousand British men, women, and children, on the field, or afterwards. And all these came from only two of the seventeen tribes by which South Britain was occupied. Let us finish this part of our theme by the mention of a pleasanter incident. It refers to the year 359, when the bloodshed between Roman and Briton" had ceased; when "arts' had again taken the place of arms ;' when a prolonged peace reigned-never again to be broken by the same combatants ; and with as much of dignity for the dependent race as was compatible with the military, political, and tributary submission. It was when the Roman colonies on the Rhine, having been pillaged by the barbarians, were left in imminent danger of starvation. Eight hundred vessels of unusual size were in consequence sent to Britain for corn, and brought back a most abundant supply. Such was the state of agriculture at that time among us; such was the population on which the abundance depended.
But the Roman dominion ended by the Romans' own act, through the general decay of their power. And then followed what no doubt every wise and patriotic Briton had mourn, fully foreseen, his country became a prey for the hordes of robbers who were drawn to it by the knowledge of the unprotected state in which it had been left. For several generations
the art of war must have died out among the Britons, unless we make an exception in favour of the many men of mixed blood, Roman British, who must by this time have come into existence; and who may have been trusted with arms and trained as Roman soldiers, without being, like other British recruits, sent abroad.
The Picts were the first and the most unnatural of these invaders—for in all probability they were of Celtic blood.
To save themselves from this influx of barbarians, who could have had no motive but the superior wealth, and, therefore, superior civilisation in many respects of the Britons, the latter, it is supposed, appealed to the Saxons for aid, who came-drove off the Picts—and then turned upno the unhappy Britons treacherously; and after another frightful period of anarchy and war, which lasted some hundred and fifty years, were . exterminated and driven into Wales.'
The simplicity, neatness, and completeness of this theory is certainly charming, if only it is true.
But why is Wales made a receptacle for destitute Britons ? She had her own and powerful tribes, her own interests, her own land to care for and guard. No doubt she might in cases of necessity receive a limited number of refugees, whose characters as warriors, or whose local position on the borders, when flying as houseless wanderers from the vengeful Saxon sword, might give them a claim to the hospitality of the Kymri (a distant branch, remember, of the Celts), who possessed Wales. But anything like a wholesale reception of such fugitives would have been simply suicidal. They must all, guests and hosts alike, have perished by famine; to say nothing of the endless additional complications of absurdity into which we are plunged by the hypothesis.
No great numbers then of the Britons of England could possibly have been received in Wales, or existed there if received. Nay, we may even ask, how could they ever have got there?
If the Anglo-Saxons were in such absolute mastery as to achieve the result spoken of, they must also have been able to stop the wandering masses of Britons, who might attempt to march through or across the country, and therefore slaughter them at once, rather than risk the most dangerous of all results—their junction with men of their own blood in or near Wales, who were still free.
The alternative, then, is that the Anglo-Saxons killed them off-which makes the theory probably neater, more finished than before--but also not a little startling.
What, kill all those warriors, of all those tribes, within a very limited space of time, who had previously made alike Roman and Saxon measure their rate of progress towards conquest by centuries rather than by years? The idea is a bold one, and takes one's breath away! But let us accept it and go on.
The warriors gone at one fell swoop, what about the labouring population, scattered over every part of the interior of the country, and without whom warriors and war would alike soon have come to an end? How were they to be got at even to be killed ? Did the Anglo-Saxons send a deputation of a couple or half-dozen armed men to every township, village, and hamlet, of the whole of England, that they might there call the rustic Britons together, as the memorable mistress called her ducks, ‘Dilly, dilly, come and be killed ?' Or did they, less confidently, send armies to march through the whole length and breadth of the land to perform the job, having previously sent a polite request that the natives would be kind enough to stay at home till they came ?
But I am inclined to be generous and allow the possibility, as a bare theory, that the whole labouring population might have been killed off, but I am arrested by a little difficulty in going farther. Did the Anglo-Saxons not want corn, or pork, or beef? Or did they object on principle to make other men labour for them? Or were they so enamoured of industry, after a long and successful career of pillage and slaughter, that they preferred not to be lords—not to be masters—but do everything, down even to the humblest offices, for them. selves ? Certainly that would be a revelation of AngloSaxondom for which the world is hardly prepared.
But it is in argument as in love; once begin to yield to your antagonist, and you must go on. So, I give up the whole labouring population to indiscriminate slaughter, as well as the warriors.
But what about the women ? Did the Anglo-Saxons not want them? Or is it supposed that one, two, or three hundred thousand virgins were fetched from the wilds of Germany ?
And if so, how did they come ? In those fleets of three' . and 'five' ships, of which we hear so much ? Or did each batch, in first coming, bring with it, stowed away below as ballast, a reasonable proportion of sweethearts, wives, sisters, and daughters to profit by the change of country, when their lords and masters should have taken undisputed possession, in periods of time varying probably from a few to more than a hundred and fifty years ?
And even if the ascetic, spiritual-minded Anglo-Saxons forswore the charms of British women, and with heroic selfsacrifice killed them all, what about the children ?
Suppose only those children left alive who were under twelve years of age, how many would there be ? Look back at the series of facts I have detailed and judge whether it is humanly possible that they could have been-roughly speaking
-less in number than the whole of the Anglo-Saxon invaders, excluding of course those who had been born on the soil ; who would assuredly be Celtic on the mother's side, and whose true designation was, what all Englishmen's ought to have been, Anglo-Celt.
Of course, having admitted so much as I have done, I may be now asked to admit finally the wholesale slaughter of even the innocent young children. And if the idea can be accepted and looked at even for a single moment as true, what an infamous set of barbarians must the ancestors of the English people have been ! And yet Englishmen are to call themselves Anglo-Saxons! To glorify themselves as Anglo-Saxons ! Why they should rather have a day set apart of solemn humiliation, renunciation, expiation, and pledge; a kind of political baptism to wash them clean, and put an impassable barrier between those Teutons and these.
But again, I say the English, with that charming modesty that so becomes them, mistake themselves ; neither they in their notions of the past, nor their presumed ancestry in their actual deeds, are so bad as they seem.
The whole basis of this incredible story rests upon one man -Gildas—to whom may be applied the Eastern fable of the tortoise that supports the world, and the question the fable provoked, what supports him ? Nothing.
He is supposed to have written his book in the year 550-560, to have been a monk, and to have obtained his materials not from Britain itself, nor from original. British documents, but from the Continent, probably from British refugees devoted like himself to Roman ideas and interests. But the value to be attached to his writings may be judged by two facts; one,