A most sensible grievance of those aggrieved times were the Forest Laws. These oppressive enactments were the produce of the Norman Conquest, for the Saxon laws of the chase were mild and humane; while those of William, enthusiastically attached to the exercise and its rights, were to the last degree tyrannical. The formation of the New Forest, bears evidence to his passion for hunting, where he reduced many a happy village to the condition of that one commemorated by my friend, Mr William Stewart Rose:
“Amongst the ruins of the church The midnight raven found a perch, A melancholy place; The ruthless Conqueror cast down, Woe worth the deed, that little town, To lengthen out his chase.”
The disabling dogs, which might be necessary for keeping flocks and herds, from running at the deer, was called “lawing”, and was in general use. The Charter of the Forest designed to lessen those evils, declares that inquisition, or view, for lawing dogs, shall be made every third year, and shall be then done by the view and testimony of lawful men, not otherwise; and they whose dogs shall be then found unlawed, shall give three shillings for mercy, and for the future no man′s ox shall be taken for lawing. Such lawing also shall be done by the assize commonly used, and which is, that three claws shall be cut off without the ball of the right foot. See on this subject the Historical Essay on the Magna Charta of King John, (a most beautiful volume), by Richard Thomson.
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