Early Britain—Roman Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 242 pages of information about Early Britain—Roman Britain.

F. 4.—­By the time that these glimpses become anything like continuous, things were further complicated by two additional elements of disturbance.  One of these was the continuous influx of new settlers from Gaul, which was going on throughout the 1st century B.C.  Caesar tells us that the tribes of Kent, Sussex, and Essex were all of the Belgic stock, and we shall see that the higher politics of his day were much influenced by the fact that one and the same tribal chief claimed territorial rights in Gaul and Britain at once; just like so many of our mediaeval barons.  The other was the coincidence that just at this period the British tribes began to be affected by the turbulent stage of constitutional development connected, in Greece and Rome, with the abolition of royalty.

F. 5.—­The primitive Aryan community (so far, at least, as the western branch of the race is concerned) everywhere presents to us the threefold element of King, Lords, and Commons.  The King is supreme, he reigns by right of birth (though not according to strict primogeniture), and he not only reigns but governs.  Theoretically he is absolute, but practically can do little without taking counsel with his Lords, the aristocracy of the tribe, originally an aristocracy of birth, but constantly tending to become one of wealth.  The Commons gather to ratify the decrees of their betters, with a theoretical right to dissent (though not to discuss), a right which they seldom or never at once care and dare to exercise.

F. 6.—­In course of time we see that everywhere the supremacy of the Kings became more and more distasteful to the Aristocracy, and was everywhere set aside, sometimes by a process of quiet depletion of the Royal prerogative, sometimes by a revolution; the change being, in the former case, often informal, with the name, and sometimes even the succession, of the eviscerated office still lingering on.  The executive then passed to the Lords, and the state became an oligarchical Republic, such as we see in Rome after the expulsion of the Tarquins.  Next came the rise of the Lower Orders, who insisted with ever-increasing urgency on claiming a share in the direction of politics, and in every case with ultimate success.  Almost invariably the leaders who headed this uprising of the masses grasped for themselves in the end the supreme power, and as irresponsible “Dictators,” “Tyrants,” or “Emperors” took the place of the old constitutional Kings.

F. 7.—­Such was the cycle of events both in Rome and in the Greek commonwealths; though in the latter it ran its course within a few generations, whilst amongst the law-abiding Romans it was a matter of centuries.  And the pages of Caesar bear abundant testimony to the fact that in his day the Gallic tribes were all in the state of turmoil which mostly attended the “Regifugium” period of development.  Some were still under their old Kings; some, like the Nervii, had developed a Senatorial government;

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Early Britain—Roman Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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