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body, the disorder of any part will, in its conse quence, affect the whole.
One known division of the people in this nation is into the nobility, the gentry, and the commonalty. Whạt alterations have happened among the two former of these, I shall not at present inquire ; but that the last, in their customs, manners, and habits, are greatly changed from what they were, I think to make appear.
If we look into the earliest ages, we shall find the condition of this third part to have been very low and mean. The highest order of this rank, before the conquest, were these tenants in socage, who held their lands by the service of the plough; who, as Lyttleton tells us, were to come with their plough for certain days in the year, to plough and
sow the demesne of the lords ;' as the villans, saith the same author, 'were to carry and recarry the dung of his lord, spread it upon his land, and to perform such like services.'
This latter was rightly accounted a slavish teñure. The villans were indeed considered in law as a kind of chattel belonging to their masters ; for though these had not the power of life and death over them, nor even of maiming them with impunity, yet these villans had not even the capacity of purchasing lands or goods ; but the lord on such purchase, might enter into the one, and seize the other for his own use. And as for the land which they held in villenage, though lord Coke says, it was not only held at the will of the lord, but according to the custom of the manor; yet, in antient times, if the lord ejected them, they were manifestly without remedy.
And as to the former, though they were accounted freemen, yet were they obliged to swear fealty to their lord; and though Mr. Rapin be mistaken, when he says they could not alienate the land (for before the statute of Magna Charta, chap. 32. they could have given or sold the whole, but without any alteration of the tenure), yet was the estate of these but very mean. Though they are called free
men,' says lord Coke, "yet they ploughed, harrowed, reaped, and mowed, &c. for the lord;' and Bracton, Dicuntur Socmanni eo quod deputati sunt tantummodo ad culturam.
Besides such as were bound by their tenures to the service of agriculture, the number of freemen below the degree of gentry, and who got their livelihood in the mercantile or mechanical way, was very inconsiderable. As to the servants they were chiefly bound by tenure, and those of the lower sort differed very little from slaves.
That this estate of the commonalty is greatly changed, is apparent; and to this alteration many causes in subsequent ages have contributed.
First, the oath of fealty, or fidelity, which of old time was administered with great ceremony, became afterwards to be omitted ; and though this fealty still remained incident to every socage tenure, yet the omission of the form was not' without its consequences; for, as lord Coke says, speaking of homage, Prudent antiquity did, for the more solemnity and better memory and observation of that which is to be done, express substances under ceremonies.
2dly, Whereas in the antient tenures the principal reservation was of personal services from the inferior tenants, the rent being generally trifling, such as hens, capons, roses, spurs, hawks, &c. afterwards the avarice or necessity of the lords incited them to convert these for the most part into money, which tended greatly. to weaken the power of the lord, and to raise the freedom and independency of the tenant.
3dly, The dismembering manors by leases for years, as it flowed from the same sources, so it produced the same effects. These were probably very rare before the reign of Edward I. at which time the statute of Gloucester secured the estate of this tenant.
4thly, The estate of the villan or copyhold seems clearly, as I have said, to have originally been holden only at the will of the lard; but the law was afterwards altered, and in the reign of Edward IV. somo of the best judges were of opinion, that if the copyholder was unlawfully ejected by his lord, he should have an action of trespass against him at the com,
From this time the estate of the copyholder (which, as Bţitton tells us, was formerly a base tenure) began to grow into repute, and, though still distinguished in some privileges from a freehold, became the possession of many opulent and powerful persons.
By these and such like means the commonalty, by degrees, shook off their vassalage, and became more and more independent on their superiors. Even servants, in process
of time, acquired a state of freedom and independency, unknown to this rank in any other nation; and which, as the law now stands, is inconsistent with a servile condition.
But nothing hath wrought such an alteration in this order of people, as the introduction of trade. This hath indeed given a new face to the whole nation, hath in a great measure subverted the former state of affairs, and hath almost totally changed the manners, customs, and habits of the people, more especially of the lower sort. The narrowness of their fortune is changed into wealth ; the simplicity of their manners into craft; their frugality into luxury; their humility into pride, and their subjection into equality
The philosopher, perhaps, will think this a bad exchange, and may be inclined to cry out with the poet,
Prima peregrinos obscæna pecunia mores
But the politician finds many emoluments to compensate all the moral evils introduced by trade, by which the grandeur and power of the nation is carried to a pitch that it could never otherwise have Teached; arts and sciences are improved, and human life is embellished with every ornament, and furnished with every comfort, which it is capable of tasting
In all these assertions he is right; but surely he forgets himself a little, when he joins the philosopher in lamenting the introduction of luxury as a casual evil; for as riches are the certain consequence of trade, so is luxury the no less certain consequence of riches; nay, trade and luxury do indeed support each other; and this latter, in its turn, becomes as useful to trade, as trade had been before to the support of luxury
To prevent this consequence therefore of a flourishing commerce is totally to change the nature of things, and to separate the effect from the cause. A matter as impossible in the political body as in the natural. Vices and diseases, with like physical necessity, arise from certain habits in both'; and to restrain and palliate the evil consequences, is all that lies within the reach of art. How far it is the business of the politician to interfere in the case of luxury, we have attempted to shew in the following treatise.
Now, to conceive that so great a change as this in the people should produce no change in the constitution, is to discover, I think, as great ignorance as would appear in the physician, who should assert, that tlie whole state of the blood may be entirely altered from poor to rich, from cool to inflamed, without producing any alteration in the constitution of the man.
To put this in the clearest light; there appear to me to be four sorts of political power.; that of bodily strength, that of the mind, the power of the purse, and the power of the sword. Under the second of these divisions may be ranged all the art of the legislator and politician, all the power of laws and government. These do constitute the civil
power; and a state may then be said to be in good order, when all the other powers are subservient to this; when they own its superior excellence and energy, pay it a ready obedience, and all unite in support of its rule.
But so far are these powers from paying such voluntary submission, that they are all extremely apt to rebel, and to assert their own superiority ; but none is more rebellious in its nature, or more difficult to be governed, than that of the purse or money. Self-opinion, arrogance, insolence, and impatience of rule, are its almost inseparable companions.
Now if these assertions are true, what an immense accession of this power hath accrued to the conimonalty by the increase of trade ; for though the other orders have acquired an addition by the same means, yet this is not in the same proportion, as every reader, who will revolve the proposition but a Inoment in his own mind, must be satisfied.
And what may we hence conclude? is that civil power, which was adapted to the government of this order of people in that state in which they were at the conquest, capable of ruling them in their present situation? hath this civil power kept equal pace with them in the increase of its force, or hath it not rather, by the remissness of the magistrate, lost much of its antient energy? where is now that power of the sheriff, which could formerly awaken and arm a whole county in an instant?, where is that posse camitaiús, which attended at his beck? what is become of the constitutions of Alfred, which the reader will find set forth at large