Page:The Public Records and The Constitution.djvu/15

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11
AND THE CONSTITUTION

the Court: the Chancellor and the Treasurer. your attention on the Chancellor, and the Treasurer, the functions of the latter of whom may, perhaps, during the first few reigns after the Conquest, have been sometimes exercised by the Chief Justiciary. I will then ask you to regard the King and his Court or Council as the starting-point of our constitution, and the records which they brought into being as the starting-points of our Public Records.

There are some minor courts and departments, which, in order not to occupy too much of your time, I shall have to leave unnoticed, or barely mention. There are also some stages in the history of the rest which I shall have to pass by in silence; but I hope the diagram before you may render the main outlines sufficiently clear.

Court and Council at Gloucester in 1085.With this preface I will take you to Gloucester at Christmas in the year 1085. There William the Conqueror is holding his Court and his Council. There is matured the design of the first of the Public Records of England. There it is decided that Commissioners shall be sent into every shire in England to ascertain how many hundred hides of land are in the shire, what land the King himself holds and what cattle, and what dues he ought to have every twelve months from each shire.

First design of the Public Records: writs to be returned.Then, says the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: 'It is shame to tell, though he thought it no shame to do—not a single hide, not a virgate of land, nor even an ox or a cow, or a swine was omitted, so as not to be set down according to his writ; and all his writs were returned to him afterwards'. From these writs returned was compiled Domesday Book.

Domesday Book the great ancestor of the Public Records.Domesday Book is one of many objects of interest exhibited in glass cases in the 'Museum' of the Public Record Office, but I will ask you to think of it not as a mere curiosity standing alone—not even as a register or record containing priceless information—but as the great ancestor of our English records. It stands in