Identification of a treacherous general of 17th century China

Identification of a treacherous general of 17th century China


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My aunt is part of an informal discussion group interested in the history of China. Apparently, during the Ming dynasty in the 1600s, there was a general whose treachery (I the charge was he was aiding the enemy, somehow. My aunt claims it was the Mongolians.) resulted in the ordered executions of him, and all members of ten related families under him. I believe he was based in Fujian.

The distinguishing detail is that since the general was of noble blood, the Portuguese actually helped him and the ten families escape to southern China to avoid execution.

Does this description match any known historical figure in China? If so, is there a more detailed resource on him?

I am interested because the family history claims that my maternal grandfather's mother was descended from one of these ten families, and explains why her family was decently well off in late 1800s Guangdong.


They may be thinking of Zhu Yujian, the last prince of the Ming Dynasty who escaped the Qing with the help of Zhen Zhilong, who had the christian name of Nicholas Iquan Gaspard.


The most well-known 'treacherous general' (from the Qing perspective) based in Fujian is perhaps Geng Jingzhong who was the paramount feudal lord of the region. He was one of the participants of the 'Revolt of the three fiefdoms/feudatories' with two other similar feudal lords of Yunnan and Guangdong, which ended in a Qing victory after about a decade. After the defeat he was executed, and it is very likely his extended family was punished as well.

It is interesting to note that a concurrent rebellion happened with the Chahar Mongols who were nominally under Qing rule at the time. The extent of direct cooperation between the feudatories and the Mongols is unclear.

In terms of nobility, Geng Jingzhong was wedded to a Qing princess, as were his father and grandfather.


Gender in the Proceedings

Virtually every aspect of English life between 1674 and 1913 was influenced by gender, and this includes behaviour documented in the Old Bailey Proceedings . Long-held views about the particular strengths, weaknesses, and appropriate responsibilities of each sex shaped everyday lives, patterns of crime, and responses to crime. This page provides an introduction to gender roles in this period a discussion of how they affected crime, justice, and punishment and advice on how to analyse the Proceedings for information about gender.


John Locke’s Early Life and Education

John Locke was born in 1632 in Wrighton, Somerset. His father was a lawyer and small landowner who had fought on the Parliamentarian side during the English Civil Wars of the 1640s. Using his wartime connections, he placed his son in the elite Westminster School.

Did you know? John Locke’s closest female friend was the philosopher Lady Damaris Cudworth Masham. Before she married the two had exchanged love poems, and on his return from exile, Locke moved into Lady Damaris and her husband’s household.

Between 1652 and 1667, John Locke was a student and then lecturer at Christ Church, Oxford, where he focused on the standard curriculum of logic, metaphysics and classics. He also studied medicine extensively and was an associate of Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle and other leading Oxford scientists.


Discourses on cultural and national identity

4 Identity has become a paradigm for the individual and for groups and nations in their search for safe ground in disturbed times. The term is defined in its most general form by Erikson: “the term identity expresses … a mutual relation in that it connotes both a persistent sameness within oneself (selfsameness) and a persistent sharing of some kind of essential character with others.”1 Thus, individual identities can only be established within group identities. Each person has multiple collective identities, which can be defined through gender, kinship, space or territory (local and regional identity), class, education, occupation, institution, religion, ethnicity, race, culture and, finally, nationality and supra-nationality.2

5 Individual and national identities are not static, but are changing continuously. Each individual, group and nation always tries to redefine his/her/its identity when it is challenged, endangered or broken. This is understood as an identity crisis. The search for and redefinition of a new identity is a process of adaptation, in which a new equilibrium is sought between traditional elements and new challenges. The identity crisis is solved as soon as a new equilibrium, however temporary, is achieved.

6 Discourses on cultural and national identity have been part of nation-building in Western Europe since the eighteenth century. They can also be found in Russia and Germany in the nineteenth century. Outside of Europe, they started dominating intellectual debates in Asia as soon as it was threatened by Western powers and Western ideas, but also in the Arabic world. It was a discourse on modernity, which at first began in the European states, and then, as a response to Western imperialism, continued until today in those parts of the world that were or still are under the influence of Western powers.

7 I would like to mention three examples that show similar patterns to those found in China. The first is Russia, where there was a discourse between “Slavophiles” and “Westernisers” from the 1840s to the 1870s (and again today). The Slavophiles wanted Russia’s future development to be based on values and institutions derived from the country’s early history instead of from the West. They took their ideas mainly from German philosophy, especially German Idealism (Herder, Schelling, Fichte and Hegel). The two main founders of the Slavophile movement, Khomyakov (1804-1860) and Aksakov (1817-1860), thought that Russia should not use Western Europe as a model for its modernisation, but should follow a course determined by its own values and history. Western Europe, especially Britain and France, was viewed as morally bankrupt and Western liberalism and capitalism as outgrowths of a decaying society. The Russian people, by contrast, should adhere to the Russian Orthodox faith and unite in a “Christian community” under authoritarian rule. Spiritual values should replace Western rationalism, materialism, individualism, capitalism and liberal democracy. The Slavophiles were opposed by the Westernisers, a group that developed simultaneously with them and which insisted that Russia should imitate the Western pattern of modernisation and introduce constitutional government into the tsarist autocracy.

8 A second example is Germany. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the German “Bildungselite” developed the foundations of a German national identity that was separate from the western part of Europe. Many German intellectuals rejected the ideas of the French Revolution and, further stimulated by its excesses and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars, developed an anti-Western mindset. Moreover, the emerging political liberalism was weakened in Germany following the failure of the 1848 revolution. As a corollary, political modernisation and industrialisation did not progress in a synchronic way. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the traditional political and socio-cultural structures were not transformed during the rapid industrialisation. To some extent, industrialisation was stuck onto the existing state and society.3 The Prussian landed aristocrats, the German army officer corps, and the state bureaucracy clearly tried to dodge any attempts at political reform. The political and social development, in particular the formation of a liberal, parliamentarian constitutional state, therefore lagged behind the technical and economic developments. The majority of the cultural and political elite did not regard itself as part of the “West” on the contrary, its aim was to create a strong and authoritarian nation-state, based on an ethnic German national and cultural identity, in opposition to Western European ideas of liberalism and parliamentarianism.4

9 German Idealism, Romanticism, and historicism had always stressed the particular individuality of German intellectual life in the face of the cultures of the Western European nations. Together with the idea of the special role of German culture, these elements were merged into a defensive ideology against the ideas of Western European and American parliamentarianism and political liberalism in the field of politics the dominating role of empiricism, pragmatism and positivism in the field of philosophy and against capitalism in the field of economics.

10 Finally, in the Arab world, there was (and still is) the struggle between clerical conservatives―or even fundamentalists―and modernists. Since the seventh century, some Muslims currents have believed in the superiority of their culture over all other cultures. But with the rise of the West, Islam lost its sense of superiority, and the crisis in modern Islam has led to the emergence of a “defence-culture” (the consequences of which can still be felt today). The ideas of Egyptian theologians Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905) and Hasan al-Banna (1906-1949) here exhibit a pattern comparable with the Russian and German example. They wanted to modernise Arab societies based on Islam and the Koran. They too, did not accept the concept of Western culture, but they did accept the technical-scientific aspects of Western modernity, a pattern that Bassam Tibi once described as a “dream of half modernity.” In other words, to face the challenge, it was necessary only to adopt and develop modern technology, but not its cultural aspects (the “project of cultural modernity” by Habermas).5

11 Generalisations in history are always dangerous. The deeper one looks into each single case, the more differences will be found. But despite many differences, the above-mentioned patterns can be found in nearly all modernising societies in the past, not only in Russia, Germany and the Arabic world, but also in China. In all of these cases, intellectuals and politicians claimed the superiority of their allegedly “spiritual culture” (the Christian faith, Islam, the German spirit and, in China, Song-Ming Neo-Confucianism) over the so-called rationalist and “material civilisation” of the West, whereas their opponents favoured a political philosophy that was based on a utilitarian-rational worldview with the idea of a democratic representative government.

12 Nations that suffered from Western oppression, occupation, and/or expropriation tended to move to and fro between extreme ideological orientations: either fending off Western modernity or selectively integrating parts of it into their own, frequently overdrawn, traditional worldviews, or even dismissing their own culture in part or in whole and replacing it with radical ideologies such as Marxism-Leninism. This is also true for China. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, large parts of China’s political and intellectual elite have followed similar patterns to find an answer to the “Western threat”, whether it was based on a Confucian or, later, on a Marxist-Leninist tradition.


Violent Anti-Semitism Spreads

Summer, 1348

A group of religious zealots known as the Flagellants first begin to appear in Germany. These groups of anywhere from 50 to 500 hooded and half-naked men march, sing and thrash themselves with lashes until swollen and bloody. Originally the practice of 11th-century Italian monks during an epidemic, they spread out through Europe. Also known for their violent anti-Semitism, the Flagellants mysteriously disappear by 1350.

The plague hits Marseille, Paris and Normandy, and then the strain splits, with one strain moving onto the now-Belgian city of Tournai to the east and the other passing through Calais. and Avignon, where 50 percent of the population dies.

The plague also moves through Austria and Switzerland, where a fury of anti-Semitic massacres follow it along the Rhine after a rumor spreads that Jews had caused the plague by poisoning wells, as Jennifer Wright details in her book, Get Well Soon, History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them. In towns throughout Germany and France, Jewish communities are completely annihilated. In response, King Casimir III of Poland offers a safe haven to the persecuted Jews, starting a mass migration to Poland and Lithuania. Marseilles is also considered a safe haven for Jews.


ACIP RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PRE-EVENT VACCINATION

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) began serious discussions about the risks and benefits of pre-event smallpox vaccination in 2001. At that time, the committee concluded that the risks of vaccination outweighed the benefits in the current pre-event setting except for a very small number of individuals. 11 The ACIP revisited this issue in June 2002 in light of the September 11, 2001 attacks, but continued to recommend against vaccination of the general population in the current pre-event setting of no confirmed smallpox. However, the ACIP did recommend vaccination for the following groups: persons pre-designated by the appropriate public health authorities to conduct investigation and follow-up of cases and selected personnel in facilities pre-designated to serve as referral centers to provide care for the initial cases of smallpox.

The ACIP then changed its recommendation again after further discussions with state health agencies and bioterrorism experts. In October 2002, the group stated that suspected smallpox patients are likely to present to hospitals and facilities that provide their usual care, rather than the pre-designated smallpox response facilities. Recommendations published in February 2003 state that each acute care hospital should identify a group of health care workers who can be vaccinated and trained to provide care for the first suspected smallpox cases. 31 These hospital-based teams would provide care 24 hours per day for at least 2 days until additional health care providers are vaccinated. The ACIP recommendations also state that previously vaccinated health care workers should be vaccinated whenever possible to decrease the risk of vaccine complications. The current ACIP guidelines provide detailed and useful recommendations regarding the composition of smallpox health care teams, vaccination procedures, prevention of contact transmission and contraindications to pre-event vaccination. 31

The concept of limited pre-event vaccination is supported by a recently published policy model that evaluated the impact of different smallpox attack scenarios. The models suggest that pre-event vaccination of health care workers will yield a net reduction in fatalities unless the risk of an attack is very low. 32 The model simulated several different attack scenarios, including a building attack (350 infected) and a high-impact airport attack (100,000 infected). If the model assumptions are valid, pre-event vaccination of health care workers would save lives if the probability of attack is greater than .22 for the building attack and .002 for the high-impact airport attack.


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During the second half of the 17th century, a terrible transformation, the enslavement of people solely on the basis of race, occurred in the lives of African Americans living in North America. These newcomers still numbered only a few thousand, but the bitter reversals they experienced—first subtle, then drastic—would shape the lives of all those who followed them, generation after generation.

Like most huge changes, the imposition of hereditary race slavery was gradual, taking hold by degrees over many decades. It proceeded slowly, in much the same way that winter follows fall. On any given day, in any given place, people can argue about local weather conditions. “Is it getting colder?” “Will it warm up again this week?” The shift may come early in some places, later in others. But eventually, it occurs all across the land. By January, people shiver and think back to September, agreeing that “it is definitely colder now.” In 1700, a 70-year-old African American could look back half a century to 1650 and shiver, knowing that conditions had definitely changed for the worse.

Some people had experienced the first cold winds of enslavement well before 1650 others would escape the chilling blast well after 1700. The timing and nature of the change varied considerably from colony to colony, and even from family to family. Gradually, the terrible transformation took on a momentum of its own, numbing and burdening everything in its path, like a disastrous winter storm. Unlike the changing seasons, however, the encroachment of racial slavery in the colonies of North America was certainly not a natural process. It was highly unnatural—the work of powerful competitive governments and many thousands of human beings spread out across the Atlantic world. Nor was it inevitable that people’s legal status would come to depend upon their racial background and that the condition of slavery would be passed down from parent to child. Numerous factors combined to bring about this disastrous shift—human forces swirled together during the decades after 1650, to create an enormously destructive storm.

By 1650, hereditary enslavement based upon color, not upon religion, was a bitter reality in the older Catholic colonies of the New World. In the Caribbean and Latin America, for well over a century, Spanish and Portuguese colonizers had enslaved “infidels”: first Indians and then Africans. At first, they relied for justification upon the Mediterranean tradition that persons of a different religion, or persons captured in war, could be enslaved for life. But hidden in this idea of slavery was the notion that persons who converted to Christianity should receive their freedom. Wealthy planters in the tropics, afraid that their cheap labor would be taken away from them because of this loophole, changed the reasoning behind their exploitation. Even persons who could prove that they were not captured in war and that they accepted the Catholic faith still could not change their appearance, any more than a leopard can change its spots. So by making color the key factor behind enslavement, dark-skinned people brought from Africa to work in silver mines and on sugar plantations could be exploited for life. Indeed, the servitude could be made hereditary, so enslaved people’s children automatically inherited the same unfree status.

But this cruel and self-perpetuating system had not yet taken firm hold in North America. The same anti-Catholic propaganda that had led Sir Francis Drake to liberate Negro slaves in Central America in the 1580s still prompted many colonists to believe that it was the Protestant mission to convert non-Europeans rather than enslave them.

Apart from such moral concerns, there were simple matters of cost and practicality. Workers subject to longer terms and coming from further away would require a larger initial investment. Consider a 1648 document from York County, Virginia, showing the market values for persons working for James Stone (estimated in terms of pounds of tobacco):

Among all six, Susan had the lowest value. She may have been less strong in the tobacco field, and as a woman she ran a greater risk of early death because of the dangers of childbirth. Hence John and Roger, the other English servants with three-year terms, commanded a higher value. Francis, whose term was twice as long, was not worth twice as much. Life expectancy was short for everyone in early Virginia, so he might not live to complete his term. The two black workers, Emaniell and Mingo, clearly had longer terms, perhaps even for life, and they also had the highest value. If they each lived for another 20 years, they represented a bargain for Mr. Stone, but if they died young, perhaps even before they had fully learned the language, their value as workers proved far less. From Stone’s point of view they represented a risky and expensive investment at best.

By 1650, however, conditions were already beginning to change. For one thing, both the Dutch and the English had started using enslaved Africans to produce sugar in the Caribbean and the tropics. English experiments at Barbados and Providence Island showed that Protestant investors could easily overcome their moral scruples. Large profits could be made if foreign rivals could be held in check. After agreeing to peace with Spain and giving up control of Northeast Brazil at midcentury, Dutch slave traders were actively looking for new markets. In England, after Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, he rewarded supporters by creating the Royal African Co. to enter aggressively into the slave trade. The English king also chartered a new colony in Carolina. He hoped it would be close enough to the Spanish in Florida and the Caribbean to challenge them in economic and military terms. Many of the first English settlers in Carolina after 1670 came from Barbados. They brought enslaved Africans with them. They also brought the beginnings of a legal code and a social system that accepted race slavery.

While new colonies with a greater acceptance of race slavery were being founded, the older colonies continued to grow. Early in the 17th century no tiny North American port could absorb several hundred workers arriving at one time on a large ship. Most Africans—such as those reaching Jamestown in 1619—arrived several dozen at a time aboard small boats and privateers from the Caribbean. Like Emaniell and Mingo on the farm of James Stone, they tended to mix with other unfree workers on small plantations. All of these servants, no matter what their origin, could hope to obtain their own land and the personal independence that goes with private property. In 1645, in Northampton County on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Captain Philip Taylor, after complaining that “Anthony the negro” did not work hard enough for him, agreed to set aside part of the cornfield where they worked as Anthony’s plot. “I am very glad of it,” the black man told a local clerk, “now I know myne owne ground and I will worke when I please and play when I please.”

Anthony and Mary Johnson had also gained their own property in Northampton County before 1650. He had arrived in Virginia in 1621, aboard the James and was cited on early lists as “Antonio a Negro.” He was put to work on the tobacco plantation of Edward Bennett, with more than 50 other people. All except five were killed the following March, when local Indians struck back against the foreigners who were invading their land. Antonio was one of the lucky survivors. He became increasingly English in his ways, eventually gaining his freedom and moving to the Eastern Shore, where he was known as Anthony Johnson. Along the way, he married “Mary a Negro Woman,” who had arrived in 1622 aboard the Margrett and John, and they raised at least four children, gaining respect for their “hard labor and known service,” according to the court records of Northampton County.

By the 1650s, Anthony and Mary Johnson owned a farm of 250 acres, and their married sons, John and Richard, farmed adjoining tracts of 450 and 100 acres respectively. In the 1660s, the whole Johnson clan pulled up stakes and moved north into Maryland, where the aging Anthony leased a 300-acre farm called “Tonies Vineyard” until his death. His widow Mary, in her will of 1672, distributed a cow to each of her grandsons, including John Jr., the son of John and Susanna Johnson. Five years later, when John Jr. purchased a 44-acre farm for himself, he named the homestead Angola, which suggests that his grandparents had been born in Africa and had kept alive stories of their homeland within the family. But within 30 years, John Jr. had died without an heir, and the entire Johnson family had disappeared from the colonial records. If we knew their fate, it might tell us more about the terrible transformation that was going on around them.

Gradually, it was becoming harder to obtain English labor in the mainland colonies. Civil war and a great plague reduced England’s population, and the Great Fire of London created fresh demands for workers at home. Stiff penalties were imposed on sea captains who grabbed young people in England and sold them in the colonies as indentured servants. (This common practice was given a new name: “kidnapping.”) English servants already at work in the colonies demanded shorter indentures, better working conditions, and suitable farmland when their contracts expired. Officials feared they would lose future English recruits to rival colonies if bad publicity filtered back to Europe, so they could not ignore this pressure, even when it undermined colonial profits.

Nor could colonial planters turn instead to Indian labor. Native Americans captured in frontier wars continued to be enslaved, but each act of aggression by European colonists made future diplomacy with neighboring Indians more difficult. Native American captives could easily escape into the familiar wilderness and return to their original tribe. Besides, their numbers were limited. African Americans, in contrast, were thousands of miles from their homeland, and their availability increased as the scope of the Atlantic slave trade expanded. More European countries competed to transport and exploit African labor more West African leaders proved willing to engage in profitable trade with them more New World planters had the money to purchase new workers from across the ocean. It seemed as though every decade the ships became larger, the contacts more regular, the departures more frequent, the routes more familiar, the sales more efficient.

As the size and efficiency of this brutal traffic increased, so did its rewards for European investors. Their ruthless competition pushed up the volume of transatlantic trade from Africa and drove down the relative cost of individual Africans in the New World at a time when the price of labor from Europe was rising. As their profits increased, slave merchants and their captains continued to look for fresh markets. North America, on the fringe of this expanding and infamous Atlantic system, represented a likely target. As the small mainland colonies grew and their trade with one another and with England increased, their capacity to purchase large numbers of new laborers from overseas expanded. By the end of the century, Africans were arriving aboard large ships directly from Africa as well as on smaller boats from the West Indies. In 1698, the monopoly held by England’s Royal African Co. on this transatlantic business came to an end, and independent traders from England and the colonies stepped up their voyages, intending to capture a share of the profits.

All these large and gradual changes would still not have brought about the terrible transformation to race slavery, had it not been for several other crucial factors. One ingredient was the mounting fear among colonial leaders regarding signs of discontent and cooperation among poor and unfree colonists of all sorts. Europeans and Africans worked together, intermarried, ran away together, and shared common resentments toward the well-to-do. Both groups were involved in a series of bitter strikes and servant uprisings among tobacco pickers in Virginia, culminating in an open rebellion in 1676. Greatly outnumbered by these armed workers, authorities were quick to sense the need to divide their labor force in order to control it. Stressing cultural and ethnic divisions would be one way to do that.

Lifetime servitude could be enforced only by removing the prospect that a person might gain freedom through Christian conversion. One approach was to outlaw this traditional route to freedom. As early as 1664, a Maryland statute specified that Christian baptism could have no effect upon the legal status of a slave. A more sweeping solution, however, involved removing religion altogether as a factor in determining servitude.

Therefore, another fundamental key to the terrible transformation was the shift from changeable spiritual faith to unchangeable physical appearance as a measure of status. Increasingly, the dominant English came to view Africans not as “heathen people” but as “black people.” They began, for the first time, to describe themselves not as Christians but as whites. And they gradually wrote this shift into their colonial laws. Within a generation, the English definition of who could be made a slave had shifted from someone who was not a Christian to someone who was not European in appearance. Indeed, the transition for self-interested Englishmen went further. It was a small but momentous step from saying that black persons could be enslaved to saying that Negroes should be enslaved. One Christian minister was dismayed by this rapid change to slavery based on race: “These two words, Negro and Slave” wrote the Rev. Morgan Godwyn in 1680, are “by custom grown Homogeneous and Convertible”—that is, interchangeable.

As if this momentous shift were not enough, it was accompanied by another. Those who wrote the colonial laws not only moved to make slavery racial they also made it hereditary. Under English common law, a child inherited the legal status of the father. As Virginia officials put it in 1655: “By the Comon Law the Child of a Woman slave begot by a freeman ought to bee free.”

But within seven years that option had been removed. Faced with cases of “whether children got by any Englishman upon a negro woman should be slave or Free,” the Virginia Assembly in 1662 decided in favor of the master demanding service rather than the child claiming freedom. In this special circumstance, the Assembly ignored all English precedents that children inherited the name and status of their father. Instead, the men in the colonial legislature declared that all such children “borne in this country shal be held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother.” In Virginia, and soon elsewhere, the children of slave mothers would be slaves forever.

Now the terrible transformation was almost complete, with the colony of Virginia leading the way. An additional legal sleight of hand by the land-hungry Virginia gentry helped speed the process. For several generations, as an incentive toward immigration, newcomers had received title to a parcel of land, called a “headright,” for every family member or European servant they brought to the struggling colony.

By expanding this system to include Africans, self-interested planter-magistrates, who were rich enough to make the initial investment in enslaved workers, managed to obtain free land, as well as valuable labor, every time they purchased an African worker.

In the decades before 1700, therefore, the number of African arrivals began to increase, and the situation of African Americans became increasingly precarious and bleak. Sarah Driggus, an African American woman who had been born free during the middle of the 17th century, protested to a Maryland court in 1688 that she was now being regarded as a slave. Many others of her generation were feeling similar pressures and filing similar protests. But fewer and fewer of them were being heard. The long winter of racial enslavement was closing in over the English colonies of North America.


Collective responsibility in early Anglo-Saxon times

The earliest policing system in England, which predates the Norman Conquest in 1066, was community-based and implied collective responsibility. The Saxon frankpledge required all adult males to be responsible for the good conduct of each other and to band together for their community’s protection. To formalize that obligation, they were grouped into tithings headed by a tithingman. Each tithing, in turn, was grouped into a hundred, which was headed by a hundredman who served as both administrator and judge. Each hundred was grouped into a shire, which was supervised by a shire-reeve. The role of shire-reeve eventually developed into the modern office of county sheriff in England and in the United States.

When crimes were observed, citizens were expected to raise an alarm, or hue and cry, to gather the members of the tithing and to pursue and capture the criminal. All citizens were obliged to pursue wrongdoers those who refused were subject to punishment. If there were no witnesses to the crime, efforts to identify the criminal after the fact were the responsibility of the victim alone no governmental agency existed for the investigation and solution of crimes.

The frankpledge method of policing continued unchanged until England’s conquest by the Normans, who added the office of constable. The word constable comes from the Old French conestable, which at first simply designated a person holding a public office and evolved to mean a person exercising a higher form of authority (connétable). After the title of constable was introduced in England, its meaning continued to change. The English constable was originally a post in the royal court by the late 13th century, however, it had evolved into a local office of individual manors and parishes, subordinate to the sheriff or mayor. Constables were appointed by various bodies, such as the courts, and there were two high constables for each shire division, known as a hundred. Constables were typically members of the higher class—under Henry VIII, for example, they were chosen from the class of “substantiall gentlemen”—and they did not receive a stipend. In addition to their frankpledge obligations, constables were responsible for overseeing the “ watch-and-ward” system (the night watch) and for providing security for traveling justices. The primary purpose of the watch and ward was to guard the city gates at night. The duties of watchmen were later expanded to include lighting streetlamps, calling time, watching for fires, and reporting other conditions. Yet, despite the addition of constables, the investigation and prosecution of crimes remained a private matter to be handled by the victims.

The Statute of Winchester of 1285 codified the system of social obligation. It provided that: (1) it was everyone’s duty to maintain the king’s peace, and any citizen could arrest an offender (2) unpaid, part-time constables operating at various levels of governance had a special duty to do so, and in towns they would be assisted by their inferior officers, the watchmen (3) if the offender was not caught “red-handed,” a hue and cry would have to be raised (4) everyone was obliged to keep arms and to follow the cry when required and (5) constables had among their varying responsibilities a duty to present the offender at court tests.

The Justice of the Peace Act of 1361 began the process of centralizing the administration of justice in England. It established the office of justice of the peace, the responsibilities of which encompassed police, judicial, and administrative duties. Justices of the peace were appointed by, and derived their authority from, the monarch. The period of the Justice of the Peace Act marked the end of the law enforcement system based upon obligatory service to the community by all individuals.

Until the 19th century, except for a brief period during the rule of Oliver Cromwell (1653–58), public order and safety in England remained mainly the responsibility of local justices of the peace, constables, and the watch and ward. Constables and watchmen were supported by citizens, posses (such as the posse comitatus), and, when riots occurred, the military or the yeomanry (a cavalry force largely composed of landowners).


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