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ance of the matter which it contains, I believe that, as it was not the least difficult part of my undertaking, that volume will be regarded as not the least valuable. On religion-a subject on which the celebrated historian alluded to seems to me no less unhappy than in his ideas of the government-I have been particularly copious. Endeavouring to keep steadily in view the principles of toleration, I have yet made it my study to present such a faithful picture of the sentiments of the times, as may enable the reader to form a just estimate of transactions which flowed from a more contracted policy. In recording civil events, it has ever been my object to abstain from all unnecessary indulgence in abstract speculations, and to appreciate men and things, in relation to the state of the

government, of society, and of public opinion, as the only standard by which they ought to be tried.

HISTORY

OF THE

BRITISH EMPIRE.

INTRODUCTION.

CHAP. I.

Containing a History of the English Constitution, and

tracing the Progress of Society in England, from the Feudal times till the close of the Reign of Elizabeth.

Though the fundamental principles of the EngJish Constitution were laid at a very early period, and have been traced back by ingenious men even to the woods of Germany, its benefits were long restricted to a small portion of the community. It requires no uncommon share of sagacity to discover that, if the land of a country be appropriated by a few, and the many have no manufactures to exchange for the produce of the soil, the lot of the latter must, under any form of government, be slavery and wretchedness. Without an equivalent

VOL. I.

B

to purchase the means of subsistence, they have only the melancholy alternative of starving, or of submitting to the conditions which the owners of the soil choose to impose. Such was the feudal system, under which every large estate was a petty principality, with one absolute lord, whose vast number of dependents, while they constituted his pride and boast, as well as the foundation of his power, were only retained on the condition of im. plicit obedience. Besides that they were subject to his jurisdiction, it is quite evident that no laws could have enabled them to resist oppression, since the

very attempt to obtain relief would have been punished, as an inexpiable act of mutiny, by banishment from the estate an evil worse than death itself, since the wretched outcast would have found himself at once destitute of an asylum, and of every resource. For most estates would be overburthened with inhabitants, and proprietors would, in the general case, deny him refuge, even when it was in their power to grant it - either from a feeling of resentment and wounded pride at the boldness of a dependent that could question the authority of his chief, or through fear of offending a powerful neighbour, or of encouraging insubordination in their own followers by the example. Even the friends of the outcast would, to avoid his fate, be obliged to smother their feelings, to deny him assistance, and to applaud, as the award of justice, the terrible vengeance that had descended upon their kinsman. Thus, under the feudal system, though the Barons vindicated their own

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