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Courts Leet

hundred, crown, ex and contains


The principal subdivision in a county is the hundred, a district which in its origin bore relation rather to the popu lation than to any uniform geographical limits. Mr. Hallam considers it to have been a district inhabited by 100 free families, and that a different system pre vailed in the northern from that of the southern counties ; in proof of which he contrasts Sussex, which contains 65 hun dreds, and Dorsetshire, which contains 43, with Yorkshire, which contains only 26, and Lancashire, only 6. In the counties north of the Trent, and especially in Scotland, this subdivision is often called a wapentake. Kent is divided into five lathes, which are subdivided into hundreds. That the division into hun dreds was known among the Germans, even in the time of the Roman invasion, is infbrred, but improperly, from two passages in Tacitus (` De Mor. Germ.,') "ex omni juventute delectos ante aciem locant—Definitur et nuraerus ; centeni ex singulis pagis sunt." And again, " Cen teni singulis (principibus) adsunt ex plebe comites, consilium simul et auctoritas." " Nihil nisi armati agunt ;" and hence Selman infers the identity of the wapen tech, or military array (takingof weapons) and the hundred court. Sir Francis Palgrave says that the burgh was only the enclosed and fortified resort, the stockade of the inhabitants of the hundred. The subdivision of the hundred was the tithing, composed, as it is alleged, of ten free families, and having for an officer the tithing man, a head constable.

Whether in the barbarous times to which it is attributed, so elaborate a system as we have sketched could have prevailed, is at least most doubtful; but the theory is that somewhere about the time of Edgar (A.D. 950), the county was divided into tithings, of which twelve made a hundred—for the Saxon hundred meant 120, and hence perhaps the fre quent use of the number 12 in our legal processes. These hundreds were pre sided over by their decanus, or head borough, or hundred-man, and were re presented in the shiremote ; and this aggregate body, the shire, presided over by its earl and bishop or sheriff, con ducted its own internal affairs.

There are three counties-palatine, the earl of which had within his shire all the fiscal and judicial powers of the crown :—Chester, created by William the Conqueror ; the duchy of Lancaster, created by Edward III.—these two have been long annexed to the crown ; and Durham, heretofore governed by the bishop, but annexed to the crown by statute in 1836. In the latter year, a part of the see of Ely, which had been a royal franchise, was annexed to the crown, as Hexhamshire in Northumber land had been in the reign of Elizabeth.