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THIS book is intended to be primarily a treasury of reference ; an easily handled repertory of the Origines of English Constitutional History; and, secondarily, a manual for teachers and scholars. With a view to the first purpose, I have tried to collect in it every constitutional document of importance during the period that it covers. With a view to the second, I have attempted by way of illustration to point out the bearings of the several documents on one another and on the national polity; supplying in the Introductory Sketch a string of connexion and some sort of continuous theory of the development of the system.
The study of Constitutional History is essentially a tracing of causes and consequences; the examination of a distinct growth from a well-defined germ to full maturity: a growth, the particular direction and shaping of which are due to a diversity of causes, but whose life and developing power lies deep in the very nature of the people. It is not then the collection of a multitude of facts and views, but the piecing of the links of a perfect chain. And in this comparatively complete and intelligible connexion of cause and consequence, it has a certain charm that makes up for the default of everything depending on the play of personal character, the unlooked-for and the picturesque.
It is of the greatest importance that this study should become a recognised part of a regular English education. No knowledge of English history can be really sound without it: it is not creditable to us as an educated people that while our students are well acquainted with the state machinery of Athens and Rome, they should be ignorant of the corresponding institutions of our own forefathers : institutions that possess a living interest for every nation that realises its identity, and have exercised on the wellbeing of the civilised world an influence not inferior certainly to that of the Classical nations.