Page:A short history of social life in England.djvu/60

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SAXON CHILDREN

she might sue and be sued in her own name in the courts of justice, she shared in all the social functions, she was present at the open-air moot, or meetings of freemen to settle the local affairs of the little family township; while in some cases she accompanied her husband to the larger Witenagemote, or Meeting of the Wise Men, to settle the more burning questions of the still embryonic nation.

With regard to children, the Angles and Saxons had somewhat Spartan ideas. No sooner was a child born than the momentous question arose. Was it to be allowed to live? It was deemed an act of parental love to put to death any child born to a life of misery or possible starvation, for famine stalked the land not infrequently in these days before the reign of Commerce. Or because to rear a sickly child might bring disgrace to a family of brave men. Children were rigidly brought up. Flogging was looked on not only as a punishment, but as a system of tuition. If a child would not learn, it was beaten; if it did learn, apparently it was beaten also, with a view to impressing the fact learnt on its memory. Thus a man referred to his childhood in the