BALLOT. [Vortuo.j BAN, a word found in many of the modern languages of Europe in various senses. But as the idea of "publication" or "proclamation" runs through them all, it is probable that it is the ancient word ban still preserved in the Gtelic and the modern Welsh in the simple sense of " proclaiming." As a part of the common speech of the English nation, the word is now so rarely rued that it is put into some glossaries of provincial or archaical words, as if it were obsolete, or confined to some parti cular districts or particular classes. Yet, both as a substantive and a verb, it is found in some of our best writers ; among the poets, Spenser, Marlowe, and Shaks pere ; and among prose-writers, Knolles and Hooker. By these writers, however, it is not used in its original sense of "proclamation," hut in a sense which it has acquired by its use in proclamations of a particular kind ; and it is in this secondary sense only that it now occurs in common language, to denote cursing, denouncing woe and mischief against one who has offended. A single quotation from Shakspere's tale of Venus and Adonis' will show precisely how it is used by writers who have employed it, and by the people from whose lips it may still sometimes be heard : All swollen with chafing, down Adonis sits, Banning the boisterous and unruly beast.
The improvement of English manners having driven out the practice, the word has nearly disappeared. But in the middle ages the practice was countenanced by such high authority, that we cannot wonder at its having prevailed in the more ordinary ranks and affairs of life.
When churches and monasteries were founded, writings were usually drawn up, specifying with what lands the founder and other early benefactors endowed them ; and those instruments often con clude with imprecatory sentences in which torments here and hereafter are invoked on any one who should attempt to divert the lands from the purposes for which they were bestowed. It seems that what we now read in these instruments was openly pronounced in the face of the church and the world by the donors, with certain accompanying ceremonies. Mat
thew Paris, a monk of St. Albans, who has left one of the best of the early chronicles of English affairs, relates that when King Henry III. had refounded the church of Westminster, he went into the chapel of St. Catherine, where a large assembly of relates and nobles was col lected to receive him. The prelates were dressed in full pontificals, and each held a candle in his hand. The king advanced to the altar, and laying his hand on the Holy Evangelists, pronounced a sentence of excommunication against all who should deprive the church of any thing he had given it, or of any of its rights. When the king had finished, the prelates east down the candles which they held, and while they lay upon the pavement, smoking and stinking (we use the words of the author who relates the transaction), the Archbishop of Canterbury said aloud, " Thus, thus may the condemned souls of those who shall violate or unfavourably interpret these rights be extinguished, smoke, and stink :" when all present, but the king especially, shouted out "Amen, Amen." This, in the English phrase, was the banning of the middle ages. Nor was it confined to ecclesiastical affairs. King Henry III., in the ninth year of his reign, renewed the grant of Magna Charta. In the course of the struggle which was going on in the former half of the thir teenth century between the king and the barons, other charters of liberties were grimed. But for the preservation of that which the barons knew was only extorted, the strongest guarantee was required : and the king was induced to preside at a great assembly of nobles and prelates, when the archbishop pronounced a solemn sentence of excommunication against all 'ersons of whatever degree who should •violate the charters. This was done in Westminster Hall. on the 3rd of May, 1253. The transaction was made matter of public record, and is preserved in the great collection of national documents called Rymer's Feedera.