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Reeves History of the English Law, from the Time of the Romans, to the End of the Reign of Elizabeth, Vol. 4 of 5

Excerpt from Reeves History of the English Law, From the Time of the Romans, to the End of the Reign of Elizabeth, Vol. 4 of 5 IV., and it will be seen how utterly unlike it was to the rule of Henry VI. And his predecessor, which, as far as the crown was concerned, was mild enough, and under which indeed the power of the state was really wielded by the leading noblemen. It would be impossible to imagine an two rei more utterly unlike each other than those of Henry VI. And ward I while on the other hand, the character of the rule of Edward was entirely the same in this respect as that of his successors, whether of his own dynasty or that which succeeded it; and from the time of his accession to the close of the reign of Elizabeth, arbitrary power by the crown was exercised. This, therefore, was undoubtedly the Opening of a new era in our legal history, fraught with most momentous consequences. The distinctive char acteristic of the era is the absolute ascendancy of the re al power in the state. From the accession of Edward I. To the reign of ward IV., there been one long struggle between the crown and the aristocracy, and the crown had now gained the ascendant. The great feature of the present era was the utter disappearance of the last traces of the old Saxon element of freedom in our government, if not in our constitution. That element, deed, still remained nominally embodied in the great institutions of the jury and of the House of Commons; but for the present they were practi cally subdued, though not subverted, by the enormous presure of the royal wer and practically the monarchy was absolute. The great lesson to be framed from this era in our legal history is the necessity of an aristocracy for the protection of the nation from the tyrann of royalty. The previous age had taught the lesson of the importance of t e supremacy of royalty for the protection of the peo ls from the oppression 0 an aristocrac The nation was now to learn t e evils arising from the absolute ascen ancy of royalty, and the absence of all check or control upon regal power. The Norman conquest, observes the historian threw more power into the hands of the sovereign, which, however, admitted of great control, though derived less from the general forms of the constitution, which were inaccu rate and irregular than from the independent power enjoyed by each baron in his particular district or province. The establishment of the great char ter exalted still higher the aristocracy, imposed regular limits on royal favor, and gradually introduced some mixture of democracy into the consti tution. But even durin this period, from the accession of Edward I. To the death of Richard I I the conditions of the Commons was nowise eligi ble. A kind of Polish aristocracy prevailed, and though the kings were limited, the people were as yet far from being free. It required the almost absolute authority of the sovereign, which took place in the subsequent period, to pull down these disorderly and licentious t nts, who were equally averse from peace and from freedom, and to cats lish that regular execution of the laws which, in a followin age, enabled the people to erect a regular and equitable plan of liberty gist. Eng., 0. The historian it will be noticed, dates the era of arbitrarv power from the death of Richard III. And the accession of Henry VIL; but the principles of government which'he pursued, and the system of rule he carried out, had commenced their operations in the rei of Edward IV. Thus it was as tothe exaltation of the royal power by t e repression of maintenance or combination of retainers of great men. The historian, in his review of the laws of the next reign, says: There was scarcely any session 'during this reign without some statute against engaging retainers, and giving them badges or liveries. About the Publisher Forgotten Books publishes hundreds of thousands of rare and classic books. Find more at
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