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from them. Both are to be deduced from that primeval alphabet whose forms can be discovered amongst all the Caucasian nations, and which was probably the parent ofall the alphabetical characters now in use in the world. Our present mode of publication forbids us to enlarge on an hypothesis which must be supported by the characters themselves. But there is sufficient evidence yet existing to show that all the signs of sound now known to mankind are modifications of one system, the simplest form being found in those characters, which, for want of a better name, we may term the Cadmaean alphabet. The Runes of the Northmen are only sixteen in number. The Anglo-Saxon Runes are more numerous, and therefore probably include compounds and combinations of later date, but they must, nevertheless, have been invented before the nation left the shores of Germany, being identically the same with the characters which, as we learn from Rabanus Maurus, were employed by the Marcomanni, a name which he applies, not to the Marcomanni of the Romans, but to the heathen Saxons, then living beyond the Elbe;* and we consider this circumstance as affording the strongest inference that the Anglo-Saxon runes are authentic and original. Accident could not occasion the affinity, and no motive could have existed for imposture. Every Anglo-Saxon letter had its significant name. In the Beth-luis-nion alphabet of Ireland, plants and trees alone afforded the denominations of the characters. But the English alphabet was more diversified. Some letters were named from visible objects, others from abstract ideas. These appropriations, however, do not seem to indicate any hieroglyphic origin. It is more probable that they were given for the purpose of aiding the memory. Similar devices may be traced amongst other nations. The names given to the letters of the Sclavonian alphabet form a prayer.T
All writing was originally engraving. The runes, like the Bardic characters of the Britons, seem to have been usually engraved upon wooden wands. Of this practice, which existed within time of historical memory in Scandinavia, we have a memorial in the word Stave, which has been variously employed to denote a letter of the alphabet, an epistle, a line, a-verse.J
* De inventioYie linguarum.—Ap. Goldas. Scrip. Rer. A lent, II. p. i. p. 67.
■f The English letters, with a curious poetical exposition grounded on the names, were preserved in one of the Cottonian manuscripts (since burnt), Otho, B. 10. from whence they were engraved by Hickes, Grammatica Auglo-Saionica, p. 135. They are also found, with little variation, in many other ancient manuscripts. .
} The ancient custom prevails without any variation in the islands of the Indian archipelago. We have now before us a poem in the Lampung character, each verse whereof is neatly cut upon a small stick or staff of bamboo cane. The Battaks use larger timber, and a distinguished Orientalist in this metropolis possesses an epic poem in their language, cut upon a club of about six feet in length.
The want of convenient materials for writing would necessarily limit its application, even if the knowledge had been extensively diffused. But in the earliest period much mystery was attached to the Runes. Secrecy is implied in the very name. Magical virtues were ascribed to them. Spells and charms were framed in these magical characters. They aided the lover, the rival, or the warrior. They gave unerring swiftness to the arrow in its path, and resistless keenness to the sword. ■ ■•■'
By Augustine and his followers, the Latin alphabet was introduced. Few as the individuals might be who became familiar with the new mode of writing, still it was one step towards the acquirement of the Latin language, the great medium of useful knowledge. There were two sounds, however, which could not be indicated by the Roman alphabet, and for these alone the runes were considered necessary. And the runes p Thorn and P' Wen, the th and the w, still appear in the Anglo-Saxon alphabet. Yet for the first of these letters the scribes occasionally employed the Greek 0, and by adding a diacritical line to the Latin JD or d, D, B, they formed a new character of equivalent power.* Laws and charters, so far as they extend, are the materials of history least liable to suspicion. Sanctioned by the supreme authority, these monuments constitute the highest class of evidence; and if the authenticity of the instrument be established, it follows that the contents must be admitted to be true. Wilful error and individual prejudice can never be expected to find a place in these documents, which are equivalent to the oral declarations of the parties from whom they proceed. The preamble of the law and the recitals of the grant must therefore be vouched with much more confidence than the narrative of any historian, however impartial or well informed. He is but a relator, stating the matter which he has acquired from others. In the charter and the statute we are addressed by the Sovereign and the Nation.
Besides the statements which are directly gained from these public instruments, they furnish after-ages with those comments upon history which are not less important than facts themselves. Events engage the principal attention of the ancient chronicler. He dwells upon transactions. He only glances at the details of government and administration. Kings and Earls pass before us. Battles succeed to battles,.and councils to councils; but unless we understand the dignity of the Chief, the duties of the Soldier, the functions of the Sages, we obtain only the most imperfect developement of the state and condition of the common
• The characters'S and p are used indifferently, and there is no foundation for the eonjectnre that the one denoted th hard, and the other th soft.
Vol. xxxiv. No. Lxvii. K wealth. wealth. Truth is of no utility excepting when it can be turned to better account than fiction. History affords instruction, only when the pleasure derived from incident and adventure can be combined with the higher interest arising from the consideration of government and policy. When this interest is absent, the chronicle is no better than the romance. Of what consequence is it now to us to know that one petty chieftain of the eighth century obtained the ascendancy over a savage compeer, whose bones have long since mouldered into dust—that one obscure tribe discomfited another half civilized horde?—Why should we weary ourselves with recounting the 'struggles between the kites and the crows,' unless they elucidate that state of society, from whence, by a long though unbroken series of descents, our present government has been derived i But a satisfactory knowledge of the elements composing the ancient constitution can only be collected from the jurisprudence of the Anglo-Saxon lawgivers. Much of their legislation exists amongst us in principle and spirit, however obsolete and uncouth it may appear in language and form. And hence the Anglo-Saxon law must be justly considered as the best preliminary to the study of our ancient history.
One most important consequence of the introduction of the Latin alphabet amongst the Anglo-Saxons was the application of writing to legal documents and legislation. Until the Teutonic nations settled on Roman ground, the law was oral and traditionary. It was a common law, existing as the English common law still exists, in customs, whether local or national, recorded in the memory of the judges, and published by the practice of the tribunal. If any aid was required to the recollection, it was afforded either by poetry, or, at least, by the condensation of the maxim or principle in proverbial or antithetical sentences like the Cymric triads. There are many vestiges of this poetry of the law. But the rules of justice, when the law was administered by the warlike nobles in the presence of the people, were not concealed from their knowledge in the Runes, the characters of mystery. Nor can it be discovered that any of the Teutonic nations reduced their customs into writing, until the influence of increasing civilization rendered it expedient to depart from their primeval usages. It would afford a curious parallel to the modern circumstances of the English law, if the remains of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence could be divided into M or'Mwa, customs or common law; Asetnysse, statutes; and Domas, adjudged cases or precedents. But these terms, whatever distinction may have been originally intended, are employed indiscriminately, and the first specimens of Anglo-Saxon legislation are the 'dooms/ which JEthelbyrht, king of Kent, 'established with the consent of his witan in the days of St. Augustine.' Bede, who commemorates and praises this proceeding, adds that it was effected after the example of the Romans. This expression, however, can only refer to the promulgation of the law in writing, contrasted with the national customary law. Ethelbert's statute offers no imitation whatever of Roman policy. Entirely Teutonic in language as' well as in spirit, it relates only to the amount of the pecuniary fines or weres, payable for various transgressions.
Unlike the other Teutonic nations, who employed the Latin language, the laws of JEthelbyrht are written in the English language, as the dialect is termed by Bede, and they afford the earliest specimens of' barbarous' jurisprudence in the vernacular tongue. They now exist in a single manuscript, the volume which we owe to the care of Ernulphus, Bishop of Rochester; and the paragraph or section, containing the penalties imposed upon offenders against the peace of the Church and Clergy, seems to correspond in tenor with the recital given by Bede. But it is quite impossible to believe that the text of the Anglo-Norman manuscript of the eleventh century exhibits an unaltered specimen of the English of the reign of iEthelbyrht.* The language has evidently been modernized and corrupted by successive transcriptions. Some passages are quite unintelligible, and the boldest critic would hardly venture upon conjectural emendations, for which he can obtain no collateral aid. Neither have we any proof whatever of the integrity of the text. It cannot be asserted, with any degree of confidence, that we have the whole of the law. Destitute of any statutory clause or enactment, it is from the title or rubric alone, that we learn the name of the legislator.
After the interval of more than a century, Hlothaere and Eadric (G75-*685) made additions to the laws which 'their ancestors had established before them,' and which principally relate to the singular system of pledges and warranty intended for the purpose of preventing theft and larceny, an institution which holds so conspicuous a place in the Anglo-Saxon policy. Wihtiaed's laws, which were enacted at Berghamstede in the ninth year of his reign (699), are chiefly ecclesiastical, affixing temporal punishments to spiritual offences. The laws of Hlothaere and Eadric and Wihtraed, though more intelligible than the laws of Ethelbert,
* The orthography of proper names adopted by Bede indicates that the pronunciation of the Anglo-Saxon language was then much harsher than in the ninth century. Miilbtrct, (Kdilwld, Alchfrid, were softened into JEthelbijrht, Xthelwald, Ealfrith. Appended to the Ely Manuscript of Bede is the song of Caedmou. Smith and Wanluy assign the date of 737 to the manuscript. If this conjecture be correct, this fragment is the only example of the ancient Anglo-Saxon orthography, as we are not aware that there is any specimen of the language preserved in any other manuscript older than the ninth century,
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still offer many difficulties, and the corruptions are equally irremediable, no other text existing except the modern manuscript of Ernulphus. No traces can be found of any other manuscript. And as an ancient Latin translation of the Anglo-Saxon laws, made about the time of Henry I. does not include the laws of the several Kentish kings, it is probable that they were entirely unknown to the translator.
It is foreign to our present purpose to investigate the history of Anglo-Saxon legislation; we shall therefore enumerate, without detailing, the successive statutes of Alfred, Edward the Elder, Athelstane, Ethelred, and Edgar, of which the substance is in great measure included in the capitulary or statute enacted by 'Canute, King of all England, of the Danes and of the Northmen, at Winchester, with the advice of his witan.' This monarch obtianed a high reputation for his wisdom and equity; and although there is no portion of his enactments in which any positive novelty, either of form or principle, can be discovered, still they exhibit a greater degree of systematical jurisprudence and organization than appears in the statutes of the earlier English kings. On the accession of Edward the Confessor, the Anglo-Saxon monarch was required by the clergy and Baronage of the nation to promise the observance of the laws of the Danish King, a request to which he acceded, and which he sanctioned by his oath ;■ and the older body of laws acquired the name of the laws of the Confessor, not because he enacted them, but because he renewed them. Yet this renewal was confined to England proper, for it was not till the close of his reign that the laws of Canute were promulgated in the subordinate Kingdom of Northumbria.
William the Norman followed the example of Canute the Dane, by re-enacting and confirming the statutes of his predecessors, and we must consider the laws which are extant under his name as closing the series of monuments of Anglo-Saxon legislation. We are told that the English with one accord demanded the restoration of the laws and customs known and used by them, the laws under which they were born, such as had prevailed in the days of holy king Edward the Confessor. To this demand, William assented; and a statute or capitulary, purporting to contain the laws and customs ' which King William granted to the people of England after the conquest, being the same which King Edward his cousin held before him,' has been preserved in Romance and in Latin. Both texts agree so closely as to show that the one is a translation from the other. The Latin text is yet in manuscript. The Romance, or French text, which was published by Selden with a Latin version, and afterwards by Lambard and Wilkins from the history ascribed to Ingulphus, has long enjoyed