MacMillan's Reading Books eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 236 pages of information about MacMillan's Reading Books.

JAMES SHIRLEY.

[Notes:  James Shirley (1594-1666).  A dramatic poet.

And plant fresh laurels when they kill = even by the death they spread around them in war, they may win new laurel-wreaths by victory.

Purple.  As stained with blood.]

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GROWTH OF EUROPEAN CIVILIZATION IN THE TWELFTH CENTURY.

Various improvements in the system of jurisprudence, and administration of justice, occasioned a change in manners, of great importance and of extensive effect.  They gave rise to a distinction of professions; they obliged men to cultivate different talents, and to aim at different accomplishments, in order to qualify themselves for the various departments and functions which became necessary in society.  Among uncivilized nations there is but one profession honourable, that of arms.  All the ingenuity and vigour of the human mind are exerted in acquiring military skill or address.  The functions of peace are few and simple, and require no particular course of education or of study as a preparation for discharging them.  This was the state of Europe during several centuries.  Every gentleman, born a soldier, scorned any other occupation; he was taught no science but that of war; even his exercises and pastimes were feats of martial prowess.  Nor did the judicial character, which persons of noble birth were alone entitled to assume, demand any degree of knowledge beyond that which such untutored soldiers possessed.  To recollect a few traditionary customs which time had confirmed, and rendered respectable; to mark out the lists of battle with due formality; to observe the issue of the combat; and to pronounce whether it had been conducted according to the laws of arms, included everything that a baron, who acted as a judge, found it necessary to understand.

But when the forms of legal proceedings were fixed, when the rules of decision were committed to writing, and collected into a body, law became a science, the knowledge of which required a regular course of study, together with long attention to the practice of courts.  Martial and illiterate nobles had neither leisure nor inclination to undertake a task so laborious, as well as so foreign from all the occupations which they deemed entertaining, or suitable to their rank.  They gradually relinquished their places in courts of justice, where their ignorance exposed them to contempt.  They became, weary of attending to the discussion of cases, which grew too intricate for them to comprehend.  Not only the judicial determination of points which were the subject of controversy, but the conduct of all legal business and transactions, was committed to persons trained by previous study and application to the knowledge of law.  An order of men, to whom their fellow-citizens had daily recourse for advice, and to whom they looked up for decision

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