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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

A Competitive Examination
When the king traveled for change of air, or made a progress, or visited a distant noble
whom he wished to bankrupt with the cost of his keep, part of the administration moved
with him. It was a fashion of the time. The Commission charged with the examination of
candidates for posts in the army came with the king to the Valley, whereas they could
have transacted their business just as well at home. And although this expedition was
strictly a holiday excursion for the king, he kept some of his business functions going just
the same. He touched for the evil, as usual; he held court in the gate at sunrise and tried
cases, for he was himself Chief Justice of the King's Bench.
He shone very well in this latter office. He was a wise and humane judge, and he clearly
did his honest best and fairest,--according to his lights. That is a large reservation. His
lights--I mean his rearing--often colored his decisions. Whenever there was a dispute
between a noble or gentleman and a person of lower degree, the king's leanings and
sympathies were for the former class always, whether he suspected it or not. It was
impossible that this should be otherwise. The blunting effects of slavery upon the
slaveholder's moral perceptions are known and conceded, the world over; and a
privileged class, an aristocracy, is but a band of slaveholders under another name. This
has a harsh sound, and yet should not be offensive to any--even to the noble himself--
unless the fact itself be an offense: for the statement simply formulates a fact. The
repulsive feature of slavery is the thing, not its name. One needs but to hear an aristocrat
speak of the classes that are below him to recognize--and in but indifferently modified
measure-- the very air and tone of the actual slaveholder; and behind these are the
slaveholder's spirit, the slaveholder's blunted feeling. They are the result of the same
cause in both cases: the possessor's old and inbred custom of regarding himself as a
superior being. The king's judgments wrought frequent injustices, but it was merely the
fault of his training, his natural and unalterable sympathies. He was as unfitted for a
judgeship as would be the average mother for the position of milk-distributor to starving
children in famine-time; her own children would fare a shade better than the rest.
One very curious case came before the king. A young girl, an orphan, who had a
considerable estate, married a fine young fellow who had nothing. The girl's property was
within a seigniory held by the Church. The bishop of the diocese, an arrogant scion of the
great nobility, claimed the girl's estate on the ground that she had married privately, and
thus had cheated the Church out of one of its rights as lord of the seigniory--the one
heretofore referred to as le droit du seigneur. The penalty of refusal or avoidance was
confiscation. The girl's defense was, that the lordship of the seigniory was vested in the
bishop, and the particular right here involved was not transferable, but must be exercised
by the lord himself or stand vacated; and that an older law, of the Church itself, strictly
barred the bishop from exercising it. It was a very odd case, indeed.
It reminded me of something I had read in my youth about the ingenious way in which
the aldermen of London raised the money that built the Mansion House. A person who
had not taken the Sacrament according to the Anglican rite could not stand as a candidate
 
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