TH E archives of English history are more copious and more continuous than those of any other people. The record of public events begins with the Teutonic invasion of the fifth century, and is prolonged, with scarcely a break, down to our own times. There are periods in which the information is scanty. The events of the reign of Edward IV. have not been preserved in such abundance as those of Edward I. We know more about the life and times of Archbishop Becket than we do about the life and times of Archbishop Morton. But we are rarely left without contemporary annalists, and those authoritative materials by which the historian can give continuity and vivacity to his narrative. As the political history of England can be written from its beginnings, so can the history of its laws, which are founded on the customs of the Teutonic races. Again, the constitutional history of our people has been traced back to customs which long precede
English Archives. The Conquest. 19 writing are discovered at widely different places, but with singular uniformity of time. An expert in the common hand of the English scribe will teli the date of a document within a few years, whether its origin be Lancashire, Kent, Warwickshire, Norfolk, or Northumberland. It is plain that the intercourse of Englishmen in the so-called middle ages must have been frequent and familiar, even if there were not abundant evidence to show how general was the habit of travel with certain classes of the community. But such an intercourse is the principal factor of what is called public opinion, that sentiment which has been so difficult to interpret, still more to anticipate, in the political action of this country, but which has, at various epochs of English history, startled sovereigns and governments by the suddenness of its action and the intensity of its purpose.