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success attended his legislation, that every thing bore suddenly a new face in England : robberies and iniquities of all kinds were repressed by the punishment or reformation of the criminals: and so exact was the general police, that ALFRED, it is said, hung up, by way of bravado, golden bracelets near the highways; and no man dared to touch them. Yet, amidst these rigors of justice, this great Prince preserved the most sacred regard to the liberty of his people; and it is a memorable sentiment preserved in his will, THAT IT WAS JUST THE ENGLISH SHOULD FOR EVER REMAIN AS FREE AS THEIR OWN THOUGHTS.
“ As good morals and knowledge are almost inseparable, in every age, though not in every individual, the care of ALFRED for the encouragement of learning among his subjects was another useful branch of his legislation, and tended to reclaim the English from their former dissolute and ferocious manners : but the King was guided in this pursuit, less by political views, than by his natural bent and propensity towards letters. When he came to the throne, he found the nation sunk into the grossest ignorance and barbarism, proceeding from the continued disorders in the government, and from the ravages of the Danes : the monasteries were destroyed; the monks butchered or dispersed; their libraries burned ; and thus the only seats of erudition in those ages were totally subverted. Alfred himself complains, that on his accession he knew not one person south of the Thames, who could so much as interpret the Latin service, and very few in the northern parts, who had even reached that pitch of erudition. But this Prince invited over the most celebrated scholars from all parts of Europe ; he established schools every where for the instruction of his people ; he founded, at least repaired, the University of Oxford, and endowed it with many privileges, revenues, and immunities ; he enjoined by law all freeholders, possessed of two hides of
land or more*, to send their children to school for their instruction; he gave preferment both in church and state to such only as had made some proficiency in knowledge ; and by all these expedients he had the satisfaction, before his death, to see a great change in the face of affairs; and in a work of his, which is still extant, he congratulates himself on the progress which learning, under his patronage, had already made in England.
“ But the most effectual expedient, employed by AlTRED, for the encouragement of learning, was his own example, and the constant assiduity with which, notwithstanding the multiplicity and urgency of his affairs, he employed himself in the pursuits of knowledge. He usually divided his time into three equal portions : one was employed in sleep, and the refection of his body by diet and exercise ; another in the despatch of business; a third in study and devotion : and that he might more exactly measure the hours, he made use of burning tapers of equal length, which he fixed in lanthorns,—an expedient suited to that rude age, when the geometry of dialling, and the mechanism of clocks and watches, were totally unknown. And by such a regular distribution of his time, though he often labored under great bodily infirmities, this martial hero, who fought in person fifty-six battles by sea and land, was able, during a life of no extraordinary length, to acquire more knowledge, and even to compose more books, than most studious men, though blest with the greatest leisure and application, have, in more fortunate ages, made the object of their uninterrupted industry.
“ Sensible that the people at all times, especially when their understandings are obstructed by ignorance and bad education, are not much susceptible of speculative instruction, ALFRED endeavoured to convey his morality by apo
A hide of land supposed to have commonly contained above 100 acres.
logues, parables, stories, apophthegms, couched in poetry ; and, besides propagating among his subjects former compositions of that kind, which he found in the Saxon tongue, he exercised his genius in inventing works of a like nature, as well as in translating from the Greek the elegant Fables of Æsop. He also gave Saxon translations of OROSIUS's and BEDE's Histories; and of BOETHIUS concerning the Consolation of Philosophy, And he found it nowise derogatory from his other great characters of soyereign, legislator, and politician, thus to lead the way to his people in the pursuits of literature.
“ Meanwhile, this Prince was not negligent in encouraging the vulgar and mechanical arts, which have a more sensible, though not a closer, connection with the interests of society. He invited, from all quarters, industrious foreigners to re-people his country, which had been desolated by the ravages of the Danes. He introduced and encouraged manufactures or all kinds ; and no inventor or improver of any ingenious art did he suffer to go unrewarded. He prompted men of activity to betake themselves to navigation, to push commerce into the most remote countries, and to acquire riches by propagating in. dustry among their fellow-citizens. He set apart a seventh portion of his own revenue for maintaining a number of workmen, whom he constantly employed in rebuilding the ruined cities, castles, palaces, and monasteries. Even the elegancies of life were brought to him from the Mediterranean and the Indies; and his subjects, by seeing those productions of the peaceful arts, were taught to respect the virtues of justice and industry, from which alone they çould arise. Both living and dead, ALFRED was regarded by foreigners, no less than by his own subjects, as the greatest prince after CHARLEMAGNE, that had appeared in Europe during several ages, and as one of the wisest and best that ever adorned the annals of any nation,"
CHARACTER OF KING JOHN:
BY THE SAME HISTORIAN.
“ The character of this Prince is nothing but a complication of vices, equally mean and odious; ruinous to himself, and destructive to his people. Cowardice, inactivity, folly, levity, and licentiousness, ingratitude, treachery, tyranny, and cruelty; all these qualities appear too evidently in the several instances of his life to give us room to suspect, that the disagreeable picture has been any wise overcharged by the prejudices of the ancient historians. It is hard to say, whether his conduct to his father, his brother, his nephew, or his subjects was most culpable ; or whether his crimes in those respects were not even exceeded by the baseness, which appeared in his transactions with the King of France, the pope, and the barons. His dominions, when they devolved to him by the death of his brother, were more extensive than have ever, since his time, been ruled by any English monarch. But he first lost by his misconduct the flourishing provinces in France, the ancient patrimony of the family: he subjected his kingdom to a shameful vassalage under the see of Rome: he saw the prerogatives of his crown diminished by law, and still more reduced by faction : and he died at last, when in danger of being totally expelled by a foreigh power, and of either ending his life miserably in prison, or seeking shelter as a fugitive from the pursuit of his enemies."