steal or even to hamstring a sheep1
was as much pun-
ished by death as murder or treason.
During the reign of George the Second, sixty-three new capital offences had been added to the criminal laws, and five new ones, on the average, continued to be discovered annually;2
so that the criminal code of England
, formed under the influence of the rural gentry, seemed written in blood, and owed its mitigation only to executive clemency.
But this cruelty, while it encouraged and hardened offenders,3
did not revolt the instinct of submission in the rural population.
The tenantry, for the most part without permanent leases, holding lands at a moderate rent, transmitting the occupation of them from father to son through many generations,
With calm desires that asked but little room,
clung to the lord of the manor as ivy to massive old walls.
They loved to live in his light; to lean on his support, to gather round him with affectionate deference rather than base cowering; and, by their faithful attachment, to win his sympathy and care; happy when he was such an one as merited their love.
They caught refinement of their superiors, so that their cottages were carefully neat, with roses and honeysuckles clambering to their roofs.