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should satisfy justice according to what should be to them lawfully adjudged,” &c. Thus all the honest inhabitants of every vicinage, being answerable in their own private fortunes and property for all the damages and depredations of robbers, housebreakers, and other lawless sons of violence, committed within their own respective districts, would of course be stimulated, by the urgent spur of private interest, to yield up a small portion of their leisure to the necessary exercise of arms and training, for their mutual defence against every act of violence and injustice; and on this ancient provision of the common law was apparently founded the legality of levying taxes on the inhabitants of London and Middlesex, to make good the damages occasioned by the alarming riots in the year
1780. We ought, therefore, by no means to repine at the late judgment of the courts, whereby the riot tax, to make good the damages, was deemed legal, even before the act was made for levying it; but, on the contrary, to promote, as much as possible, a still more effectual and complete revival of that most excellent institution of the common law, that it
be constantly and regularly enforced (even in less and more ordinary cases of robbery, housebreaking, &c.) for the immediate recovery of all damages and losses by any act of violence whatsoever : the value of the
damages should be levied on ten housekeepers that are the nearest inhabitants to the spot where the violence or robbery was committed. If the ten nearest housekeepers should not be able to make good the damage, then ten times ten of the nearest housekeepers (or the hundred) ought to be assessed ; and so on, if necessary, to the whole county. Such was the ancient usage by the common law, whereby all housekeepers would be prompted by their own private interest to associate in arms with their respective neighbours to suppress every act of unjust violence, and to maintain the public peace.
In the various accounts of these ancient freeboroughs, or tithings, they are sometimes mentioned as consisting only of ten men ; at other times, as consisting of ten men and their families : and therefore as all males, from fifteen to sixty years
of age, are required by law “ to have arms and to be duly exercised therein,” the number of males in a tithing of the latter description would amount to about thirty, (the proper number for a platoon,) at the rate of three males to a family, including sons, lodgers, apprentices, journeymen, porters, and servants ; though this must vary in different neighbourhoods, according to the nature of the trades and occupations carried on therein.
Archbishops, bishops, earls, barons, and other
great men, having their own proper officers, serjeants, esquires, butlers, confectioners, bakers, &c., (see 21st law of King Edward,) were supposed to have a free-borough within their own households, and were therefore not included in the ordinary tithings, “ because they were a sufficient assurance for themselves and for their menial servants; no less than the ten were, one for another, in the ordinary dozeins." (See Cowell's Interpreter, on the word “ Friburgh.”) This due exemption of the great men from the obligation of entering into the ordinary decenaries, I wish to be particularly noticed, because it may prevent the opposition of some high-minded persons, who would think themselves degraded, perhaps, by an universal establishment of the tithings. On the quotation last made from Dr. Cowell, it is necessary to remark, that the word “dozeins” is manifestly used for decenus, or decenna ; but I cannot find that these legal societies, or associations of neighbours, ever consisted of dozeins, or dozens, in the ordinary sense of that term. They are so very frequently called dozeins, merely, I presume, by corruption of speech; so that the etymology of the English word “ dozen” is not from duodecim, as one would naturally suppose, but from decenna and dizaine, the Latin and French appellations of the tithings, consisting of ten men ; or rather ten men and their families, as before remarked. But in the revival of decenaries, which I wish to promote, the number of persons in each free-borough, or decenary, (whether it shall consist of ten housekeepers, with their families and servants, or only of ten men,) must be determined by the votes of the inhabitants themselves in every neighbourhood, at their several general meetings, folk-motes, or ward-motes. This is because the service must be perfectly voluntary; for though the arrangement of the people into decenary companies was actually “ordained by the ancient laws of this realm," and was required by the common law for the whole kingdom, yet one of the most eminent common-law writers of his time (Mr. William Lambard) mentions the formation of these decenary companies as being the free act of the people themselves in every neighbourhood : for, according to him, the ancient usage was, that “ all free-born men should cast themselves into several companies by tenne in eche companie," &c. (Duties of Constables, &c. p. 7.) Our ancestors could not have had any more urgent inducement to render this service voluntary, than what the present generation actually feels (alluding to the riots of 1780 ;) for Mr. Lambard informs us just before, that " it was ordained for the more sure keeping of the peace, and for the
better repressing of thieves and robbers, that all free-born men should cast themselves into several companies," &c. The reason of this law, therefore, on which the force of it should depend, does not only still subsist, but is certainly as forcible and urgent as ever. Though this excellent custom was become almost obsolete by neglect and disuse, yet so long ago as the reign of Queen Elizabeth, it was still considered as a legal institution, required by the common law; and the renewal of it was recommended as easy and most efficacious for the maintenance of the public peace : “ whereof” (says the learned Lambard, speaking of the ancient office of borsholders, tithing-men, &c.) “there is yet some show or remnant in our leets, or law days; but if the very substance thereof were thoroughly performed, then should the peace of the land be much better maintained.” (Duties of Constables, &c. p. 9.) There is no doubt but the effects would be as happy and beneficial as when the tithings were first established by Alfred; for all the old historians agree, that an entire stop to all robbery and violence was immediately effected by this regulation. In the Chronicon of John Brompton we are informed, that " although laws in times of war are silent, yet King Alfred, in the midst of the clashing of arms, made laws, and instituted the centuries, which they call hundreds,