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work successfully, we must exercise a constant and ever-jealous watch-care over our School Fund ; and study earnestly, in the fear of God, and love of our race, how to make that fund susceptible of the greatest good to the greatest number."
PRIMITIVE CONDITION OF OUR ANCESTORS. There are those among us who seldom or never truly realize the manifold blessings of education, of civil and religious liberty, and of the personal comforts we in this age are permitted to enjoy. They have some vague idea that our lot is somewhat better, perhaps, than that of our forefathers; but in precisely what particular, they cannot tell. It may, therefore, be worth the while to revert to the customs of primitive times, and see if we cannot profit by contrasting them with those of our own day.
Our Saxon ancestors once roamed the forests of Europe, subsisting on a precarious supply of the spontaneous productions of nature. Rude huts and mud houses were their common abodes. Then came the oppression of Feudalism. Men with their families, unsafe longer to live in isolated houses, were forced to place themselves under some chief or feudal lord, whose vassals they became, to whom they paid tribute for the use of the soil they rudely cultivated, and whose battles they valiantly fought.
The Normans, or Northmen, from whom our English nobility boast their descent, were literally northern pirates, who in the ninth century infested the coasts of France and England, and from Rollo, their chief, descended William the Conqueror. In Saxon and Norman times, it was a very common occurrence for the children of the English peasantry to be sold in Bristol market, like cattle, for exportation, and many were thus sent to Ireland, and some to Scotland.
The prices of lands, products, and rentals, will afford as something of an idea of the social condition of our English ancestors a few centuries ago. In the Doomsday Book of the eleventh century, we learn that a carucate, or 100 acres of land, was valued at only 32 pence, and four carucates at ten English shillings, and sometimes at only eight shillings. By the Magna Charta, of 1215, ten pence was fixed as the price per day of a cart with two horses, and one shilling and two pence with three horses. In 1253, wheat sold for at 2s. 6d. per quarter of eight bushels; in 1248, the King paid 188. 4d. for 37 sheep, or 6d. each; in 1256, brewers sold 3 gallons of beer for 1d.; in 1272, a laborer got a penny and a half per day, and a harvest man 2d.; and during that century, £20 was the income of an English Knight.
In 1300, wheat and barley brought 3s. 4d., and oats 1s. 8d, per quarter of eight bushels; a cow 6s.; a fat sheep 18.; a hen a penny and a half; a pair of shoes 4d.; and labor from one and a half to two pennies per day. In 1314, Parliament fixed the price of a fat ox at 16s.; a cow 128.; a fat hog 3s. 4d.; a sheep 18. 2d.; à couple of chickens 1d.; a goose 2 1-2d.; and eggs half a penny per dozen. Arable land, in Kent county, rented from 3d. to 6d. per acre; pasture at 1d.; and meadow from 4d. to 10d.
In the middle of the 14th century, wine was 4d. per gallon; wool 28. per stone of fourteen pounds; Kendal cloth, from 3s. 4d. to 58. per whole piece; wheat from 4s. to 6s. per quarter of eight bushels. In 1500, oats were 2s. per quarter, and wheat 6s.; ale 2d. per gallon; and labor 21-2d. to 3 1-2d. per day. In the 16th century, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, a house in a country town rented for 4s. to 6s. per annum, and the purchase was £5. or £6.; wheat 1s. a bushel; malt and oats 7d.; an ox 26s.; a fat sheep 28. 10d.; claret and red port 3d. a quart; and labor 4d. to 6d. per day. During the civil wars, wheat averaged £3 12s. per quarter; at the Revolution it was £1 19s. In the seventeenth century, common laborers received 4d. per day with food, or eight pence without food, and 6d. per day was all that could be earned by the weaver by hard labor at the loom; wheat was then 50s. per quarter; native horses, though serviceable, were held in small esteem, and brought low prices, not more than 50s. each. One half of the common people in the seventeenth century ate animal food only twice a week, while the other half ate none at all, or at most not oftener than once a week. The great majority of the English people lived almost entirely on rye, barley and oats.. At the accession of George III. wheat was 33s. per quarter of eight bushels, barley 20s., and oats 158.; and labor 18. to 1s. 6d. per day.
Towards the close of the twelfth century, the use of glass in windows became common in England, prior to which paper, properly prepared with oil, was generally used as a tolerable medium for the admission of light; and to this day windows are enumerated as among the articles of luxury subject to taxation in England. The first clothing fabrics were manufactured in England in the reign of Edward III, in the 14th century, and called Kendal cloth and Halifax cloth, from the places in which they were made. In 1685, the net annual receipt from the chimney tax in Great Britain was two hundred thousand pounds, or about nine hundred thousand dollars.
PREVAILING IGNORANCE OF PRIMITIVE TIMES. Anterior to the discovery of printing and the revival of learning, the most profound ignorance reigned among the masses. From the sixth to the thirteenth century, many bishops could
not read, and Kings were scarcely able to sign their names, and hence the use of seals and sealing. These were the ages in which superstition, witchcraft and priesteraft obtained an ascendency so universal. Several centuries after Charlemagne, who died early in the ninth century, the German tribes considered no knowledge of use, but that of managing the lance and the steed. The barbarism was so great, that most of the laity, even the most distinguished, could scarcely read or write. He who instructed in these
considered distinguished scholar, and he who obtained more knowledge, particularly in mathematics or natural science, exposed himself to the danger of being burnt as a sorcerer: Macaulay tells us, that in the twelfth or even in the fourteenth century, there was, through the greater part of Europe, very little knowledge, and that little was confined to the clergy. Not one man in five hundred could have spelled his way through a psalm.
In the time of Charles the Second, few English country squires could write their names—the peasantry, none of them. Of the wits about his court, few or none could spell with decent correctness; and the great Duke of Marlborough, we know, could scarcely spell at all. To most of the court belles, and ladies of honor, an English maunscript was all Greek; and Queen Mary, of William III, wrote of her own and husband's crownation, for coronation. The literary stores of the lady of a manor and her daughters, generally consisted of a prayer book and a receipt book; while the English country clergyman's library was limited to a bible, prayer-book, and a well-thumbed cookery book, the latter the dowry of his wife, who had frequently been his patron's cook.
EARLY SCARCITY, AND HIGH PRICE OF BOOKS. Before the art of printing, books were few, and bore an incredible price. It required the labor of two years of a faithful copyist to transcribe the Bible, and hence copies of it were very costly. Plato, who was not rich, paid 10,000 denarii, or about $1,600, for three books of Philolaus, the Pythagorean; and Aristotle paid three Attic talents, nearly $3,000, for a few books which had belonged to the philosopher Speusippus. Pliny refused what was equivalent to about $16,000 for his common place book—Electorum Commentarii. When publicly exposed, books were frequently protected by chains, and in some ancient libraries, they are chained to this day; they were subjects of grave negotiation; and were only loaned to the higher orders, upon ample pledges of deposit for their safe return. We are told, that even so late as 1471, Louis IX. was compelled by the faculty of medicine at Paris, to deposit a valuable security, and give a responsible endorser, in order to obtain the loan of the works of Rhasis, an Arabian physician. It is not strange, therefore, that the solemn injunction was often, in former ages, written upon the fly leaf, “ Cursed be he who shall steal, or tear out the leaves, or in any way injure this book.” The materials upon
which the earliest books were written were paper made of the Egyptian papyrus plant, the inner bark of trees, skins, palm leaves, wood, stone, ivory, lead and other metals.
In more modern times, instances of extraordinary prices paid for books are not wanting. A copy of the Roman de la Rose was sold for about £30; a Homily, we are told, was exchanged for 200 sheep, and five quarters, or forty bushels, of wheat. The first book printed in England was by Caxton, in 1471, and bore for its title, “ Willyam Caxton's Recuyel of the Historye's of Troye, by Raoul le Feure ;” a copy of which, in modern times, has been knocked down at auction, to a bibliomaniac, for £1,060 188., or nearly $4,400. At the far-famed sale of the great Roxburg Library, in London, in 1812, a copy of the first or Valdafar edition of Boccaccio's Decameron, published at Venice in 1471, in folio, a collection of tales, written in the finest style, satirical on the monks and others, was purchased by the Marquis of Blandford, at the enormous price of 2,260 pounds sterling, or over $10,000, when he before possessed a copy of the same edition, but which wanted five "leaves—for which five leaves, as Lord Spencer observed, he might be said to have given £2,260.
LARGE PUBLIC LIBRARIES. When we reflect upon the comparative scarcity of books before the discovery of printing, we are amazed at the extent of the famous Alexandrian Library, of 700,000 volumes, and of other large collections of ancient times ; of the twenty-eight public libraries in Rome, mentioned by Publius Victor; of the seventy public libraries which the Moors had in Spain, in the twelfth century, of which that at Cordova contained 250,000 volumes. Since the facilities for the multiplication of books by means of the press, immense libraries have been collected in almost every part of the civilized world ; among the largest of which may be mentioned, the National Library, at Paris, with its million of volumes ; the British Museum, occupying nearly a square in the heart of London, with its over 800,000 volumes of books, rolls, manuscripts and pamphlets-upon which the British Government has expended over $12,000,000, to say nothing of the value of the numerous magnificent bequests of individuals. Of this wonderful collection, the manuscript catalogue alone, which serves to give us some practical idea of its extent, comprises 623 folio volumes, from the letter A to the letter Í; and, when completed, it is expected to reach well nigh 2,000 folio volumes. The largest libraries in the United States, are the Astor collection, in New York, and that of Harvard College, at Cambridge, numbering each one hundred thousand volumes.
OUR MODERN BLESSINGS—THE OBLIGATIONS THEY IMPOSE.
Let us turn from the contemplation of the social condition of our ancestors, when land in England was valued at less than a cent an acre, and cows at six English shillings a piece ; when wheat brought less than four English pence per bushel, three gallons of beer commanded but a penny, and labor a penny and
per day; and when few or none of the common people could read a letter in the alphabet. How few must then have been the comforts and luxuries of our ancestors! It may be suggested, that longevity was the reward of the simplicity of ther lives. Facts do not warrant any such conclusion. In 1685, which was not accounted an unhealthy year, more than one in every twenty-three of the citizens of London died; while at present, by the improved condition in the means and comforts of living, only one inhabitant in forty die annually—thus has the term of human life been greatly extended.
The following graphic description, designed to represent the Englishman of moderate means at the present day, applies with equal force to a far more numerous class in our own country : “I am lodged,” says the Englishman, “in a house that affords me conveniences and comforts which even a king could not command some centuries ago. Ships are crossing the seas in every direction to bring what is useful to me from all parts of the earth. China, men are gathering the tea leaf for me ; in America, they are gathering cotton for me ; in the West India Islands, they are preparing my sugar and my coffee ; in Italy they are feeding the silk worms for me; in Saxony they are shearing the sheep to make me clothing ; at home, powerful steam engines are spinning and weaving for me. Although my patrimony is small, I have post-coaches running day and night on all the roads, to carry my correspondence. I have roads, and canals and bridges, to bear the coal for my winter fire; nay, I have protecting fleets and armies around my happy country, to secure my enjoyment and repose. Then I have editors and printers who daily send me an account of what is going on throughout the world ; and in a corner of my house, I have books—the miracle of all my possessions, more wonderful than the wishing cap of the Arabian Tales ; for they transport me