The flight of the archbishop marked the opening of a new phase in the struggle. Thomas sought refuge at the Papal Court at Sens. There kneeling at Alexander's feet, and surrounded by weeping cardinals, he delivered into the Pope's hands the written "customs" which had been forced upon him at Clarendon, and resigned the see of Canterbury to receive it back again with all honour. Alexander had indeed but limited sympathy with the fiery zealot, but he had practically no choice of action in face of the resistance with which the clergy would have met any sacrifice of ecclesiastical to secular authority. For two years at a monastery in Pontigny then for four at Sens, the archbishop lived the life of an austere Cistercian monk, edifying the community with his fastings, scourgings, and prayers. The canon law again became his constant study, and throughout the churches of Gaul he sought for books which might be copied for the library at Canterbury. He was soon fortified with visions of martyrdom, and prepared himself fitly to fulfil this glorious destiny. Nor did he forget the uses of political intrigue; it was easy to enlist on his side the orthodoxy of the French king and of the house of Blois; and the intimate knowledge which he had of his master's continental policy was henceforth at the disposal of the hereditary enemies of Henry. A tumult of political alarms filled the air. Ambassadors from both sides hurried to every court, to the Emperor, the Pope, the King of France, the Count of Flanders, the Empress Matilda at Rouen. It was the beginning of six years of incessant diplomatic intrigue, and of almost ceaseless war. The conflict, transferred from England to France, rapidly widened into a strife, not now for the maintenance of the king's authority in England, but for his actual supremacy over the whole empire. Instead of the great questions of principle which had given dignity to the earlier stages of the dispute, the quarrel sank into a bitter personal wrangle, an ignoble strife which left to later generations no great example, no fruitful precedent, no victory won for liberty or order, for Church or State.

The Constitutions of Clarendon two years before had lain down the principles which were to regulate the relations in England of Church and State. The Assize of Clarendon laid down the principles on which the administration of justice was to be carried out. Just as Henry had undertaken to bring Church courts and Church law under the king's control, so now he aimed at bringing all local and rival jurisdictions whatever into the same obedience. In form the new law was simple enough. It consisted of twenty-two articles which were drawn up for the use of the judges who were about to make their circuits of the provinces. The first articles described the manner in which criminals were to be "presented" before the justices or sheriff. The accusation was to be made by "juries," composed of twelve men of the hundred and four men of the township; the "presentment" of a criminal by a jury such as this practically implied that the man was held guilty by the public report of his own neighbourhood, and he was therefore forbidden such chance of escape as compurgation or the less dangerous forms of ordeal might have afforded, and was sent to the almost certain condemnation of the ordeal by water; if by some rare fortune he should escape from this alive he was banished from the kingdom as a man of evil reputation. All freemen were ordered to attend the courts held by the justices. The judges were given power to enter on all estates of the nobles, to see that the men of the manor were duly enrolled under the system of "frank-pledge," in groups of ten men bound to answer for one another as "pledges" for all purposes of police. Strict rules were made to prevent the possible escape of criminals. The sheriffs were ordered to aid one another in carrying the hue and cry after them from one country to another; no "liberty" or "honour" might harbour a malefactor against the king's officers; sheriffs were to give to the justices in writing the names of all fugitives, so that they might be sought through all England; everywhere jails, in which doubtful strangers or suspected rogues might be shut up for safe keeping in case the "hue and cry" should be raised after them, were to be made or repaired with wood from the king's or the nearest landowner's domains; no man might entertain a stranger for whom he would not be answerable before the justices; the old English law was again repeated in the very words of ancient times, that none might take into his house a waif or wanderer for more than one night unless he or his horse were sick; and if he tarried longer he must be kept until he were redeemed by his lord or could give safe pledges; no religious house might receive any of the mean people into their body without good testimony as to character unless he were sick unto death; and heretics were to be treated as outlaws. These last indeed were not very plentiful in England, and the over-anxious legislators seem only to have had in view a little band of German preachers, who had converted one woman, and who had themselves at a late council at Oxford been branded, flogged, and driven out half-naked, so that there was by this time probably not one who had not perished in the cold.

Such was the series of regulations that opened the long course of reforms by which English law has been built up. Two judges were sent during the next spring and summer through the whole of England. The following year there was a survey of the forests, and in 1168 another circuit of the shires was made by the barons of the Exchequer. Year by year with unbroken regularity the terrible visitation of the country by the justices went on. The wealth of the luckless people poured into the king's treasury; the busy secretaries recorded in the Rolls a mass of profits unknown to the accounts of earlier days. The great barons who presided over the Shire courts found themselves practically robbed of power and influence. The ordinary courts fell into insignificance beside those summoned by the king's judges, thronged as they were with the crowd of rich and poor, trembling at the penalty of a ruinous fine for non-attendance or full of a newly-kindled hope of justice. Important cases were more and more withdrawn from the sheriffs and given to the justices. They entered the estates of the nobles, even the franchises, liberties, and manors which had been freed from the old courts of the shire or hundred; they reviewed their decisions and interfered with their judgments. It is true that the system established in principle was but gradually carried into effect, and the people long suffered the tyranny of lords who maintained their own prisons. Half a century later we find sturdy barons setting up their tumbrils and gallows. In the reign of Edward I. there were still thirty-five private gallows in Berkshire alone, and when one of them was by chance or age broken down, and the people refused to set it up again, the baron could still make shift with the nearest oak. But as a system of government, feudalism was doomed from the day of Henry's Assize, and only dragged out a lingering existence till the legislation of Edward I. dealt it a final blow.

The duties of police were at that time performed by the whole population, and the judges' circuits brought home sharply to every man the part he was expected to play in the suppression of crime. Juries were fined if they had not "presented" a due amount of criminals; townships were fined if they had not properly pursued malefactors; villages were fined if a hut was burned down and the hue and cry was not raised, or if a criminal who had fled for refuge to their church escaped from it. A robber or murderer must be paid for by his "pledge," or if he had no pledge, a fine fell on his village or township; if a dead body were found and the slayer not produced, the hundred must pay for him, unless a legal form, called "proving his Englishry," could be gone through - a condition which was constantly impossible; the township was fined if the body had been buried before the coming of the coroner; abbot or knight or householder was heavily taxed for every crime of serf or hired servant under him, or even for the offences of any starving and worn-out pilgrim or traveller to whom he had given a three days' shelter. In the remotest regions of the country barons and knights and freeholders were called to aid in carrying out the law. The "jurors" must be ready at the judges' summons wherever and whenever they were wanted. They must be prepared to answer fully for their district; they must expect to be called on all sorts of excuses to Westminster itself, and no hardships of the journey from the farthest corner of the land might keep them back. The "knights of the shire" were summoned as "recognitors" to give their testimony in all questions of property, public privilege, rights of trade, local liberties, exemption from taxes; if the king demanded an "aid" for the marriage of his daughter or the coming of age of his son, they assessed the amount to be paid; if he wanted to count an estate among the royal Forests, it was they who decided whether the land was his by ancient right. They were employed too in all kinds of business for the Court; they might be sent to examine a criminal who had fled to the refuge of a church, or to see whether a sick man had appointed an attorney, or whether a litigant who pleaded illness was really in bed without his breeches. If in any case the verdict of the Shire Court was disputed, they were summoned to Westminster to repeat the record of the county. No people probably ever went through so severe a discipline or received so efficient a training in the practical work of carrying out the law, as was given to the English people in the hundred years that lay between the Assize of Clarendon in 1166 and the Parliament summoned by De Montfort in 1265, where knights from every shire elected in the county court were called to sit with the bishops and great barons in the common Parliament of the realm.

In the pitiless routine of their work, however, the barons of the Exchequer were at this early time scarcely regarded as judges administering justice so much as tax-gatherers for a needy treasury. Baron and churchman and burgher alike saw every question turn to a demand of money to swell the royal Hoard; jurors were fined for any trifling flaw in legal procedure; widows were fined for leave to marry, guardians for leave to receive their wards; if a peasant were kicked by his horse, if in fishing he fell from the side of his boat, or if in carrying home his eels or herrings he stumbled and was crushed by the cart-wheel, his wretched children saw horse or boat or cart with its load of fish which in older days had been forfeited as "deodand" to the service of God, now carried off to the king's Hoard; if a miller was caught in the wheel of his mill the sheriff must see the price of it paid to the royal treasury. In the country districts where coin was perhaps scarcely ever seen, where wages were unknown, and such little traffic as went on was wholly a matter of barter, the peasants must often have been put to the greatest straits to find money for the fines. Year after year baron as well as peasant and farmer saw his waggons and horses, or his store of honey, eggs, loaves, beer, the fish from his pond or the fowls from his yard, claimed by the purveyors who provided for the judges and their followers, and paid for by such measures and such prices as seemed good to the greedy contractors. The people at large groaned under the heavy burden of fines and penalties and charges for the maintenance of an unaccustomed justice. When in the visitations of 1168 the judges had to collect, besides the ordinary dues, an "aid" for the marriage of the king's eldest daughter, the unhappy tax-payers, recognizing in their misery no distinctions, attributed all their sufferings to the new reform, and saw in their king not a ruler who desired righteous judgment, but one who only thirsted after gain. The one privilege which seemed worth fighting for or worth buying was the privilege of assessing their own fines and managing their own courts. Half a century later we see the prevailing terror at a visit of the judges to Cornwall, when all the people fled for refuge to the woods, and could hardly be compelled or persuaded to come back again. Yet later the people won a concession that in time of war no circuits should be held, so that the poor should not be utterly ruined.

Oppression and extortion had doubtless been well known before, when the sheriff carried on the administration of the law side by side with the lucrative business of "farming the shires;" but it was at least an irregular and uncertain oppression. The sheriff might himself at any moment share the fate of one of his own victims and a more merciful man stand in his place; in any case bribes were not unavailing, and there was still an appeal to the king's justice. But against the new system there was no appeal; it was orderly, methodical, unrelenting; it was backed by the whole force of the kingdom; it overlooked nothing; it forgot nothing; it was comparatively incorruptible. The lesser courts, with their old clumsy procedure, were at a hopeless disadvantage before the professional judges, who could use all the new legal methods. If a man suffered under these there was none to plead his cause, for in all the country there was not a single trained lawyer save those in the king's service. However we who look back from the safe distance of seven hundred years may see with clearer vision the great work which was done by Henry's Assize, in its own day it was far from being a welcome institution to our unhappy forefathers. There was scarcely a class in the country which did not find itself aggrieved as the king waged war with the claims of "privilege" to stand above right and justice and truth. But all resistance of turbulent and discontented factions was vain. The great justiciars at the head of the legal administration, De Lucy and Glanville, steadily carried out the new code, and a body of lawyers was trained under them which formed a class wholly unknown elsewhere in Europe. Instead of arbitrary and inflicting decisions, varying in every hundred and every franchise according to the fashion of the district, the judges of the Exchequer or Curia Regis declared judgments which were governed by certain general principles. The traditions of the great administrators of Henry's Court were handed down through the troubled reigns of his sons; and the whole of the later Common law is practically based on the decisions of two judges whose work was finished within fifty years of Henry's death, and whose labours formed the materials from which in 1260 Bracton drew up the greatest work ever written on English law.

There was, in fact, in all Christendom no such system of government or of justice as that which Henry's reforms built up. The king became the fountain of law in a way till then unknown. The later jealousy of the royal power which grew up with the advance of industrial activity, with the growth of public opinion and of its means of expressing itself, with the development of national experience and national self-dependence, had no place in Henry's days, and had indeed no reason for existence. The strife for the abolition of privileges which in the nineteenth century was waged by the people was in the twelfth century waged by the Crown. In that time, if in no other, the assertion of the supreme authority of the king meant the assertion of the supreme authority of a common law; and there was, in fact, no country in Europe where the whole body of the baronage and of the clergy was so early and so completely brought into bondage to the law of the land. Since all courts were royal courts, since all law was royal law, since no justice was known but his, and its conduct lay wholly in the hands of his trained servants, there was no reason for the king to look with jealousy on the authority exercised by the law over any of his officers or servants. It may possibly be due to this fact that in England alone, of all countries in the world, the police, the civil servants, the soldiers, are tried in the same courts and by the same code as any private citizen; and that in England and lands settled by English peoples alone the Common law still remains the ultimate and only appeal for every subject of the realm.

But the power which was taken from certain privileged classes and put in the hands of the king was in effect by Henry's Assize given back to the people at large. Foreigner as he was, Henry preserved to Englishmen an inheritance which had been handed down from an immemorial past, and which had elsewhere vanished away or was slipping fast into forgetfulness. According to the Roman system, which in the next century spread over Europe, all law and government proceeded directly from the king, and the subject had no right save that of implicit obedience; the system of representation and the idea of the jury had no place in it. Teutonic tradition, on the other hand, looked upon the nation as a commonwealth, and placed the ultimate authority in the will of the whole people; the law was the people's law - it was to be declared and carried out in the people's courts. At a very critical moment, when everything was shifting, uncertain, transitional, Henry's legislation established this tradition for England. By his Assize Englishmen were still to be tried in their ancient courts. Justice was to be administered by the ancient machinery of shire-moot and hundred-moot, by the legal men of hundred and township, by the lord and his steward. The shire-moot became the king's court in so far as its president was a king's judge and its procedure regulated by the king's decree; but it still remained the court of the people, to which the freemen gathered as their fathers had done to the folk-moot, and where judgment could only be pronounced by the verdict of the freeholders who sat in the court. The king's action indeed was determined by a curious medley of chance circumstances and rooted prejudices. The canon law was fast spreading over his foreign states, and wherever the canon law came in the civil law followed in its train. But in England local liberties were strong, the feudal system had never been completely established, insular prejudice against the foreigner and foreign ways was alert, the Church generally still held to national tradition, the king was at deadly feud with the Primate, and was quite resolved to have no customs favoured by him brought into the land; his own absolute power made it no humiliation to accept the maxim of English lawyers that "the king is under God and the law." So it happened that while all the other civilized nations quietly passed under the rule of the Roman code England alone stood outside it. From the twelfth century to the present day the groundwork of our law has been English, in spite of the ceaseless filtering in of the conceptions and rules of the civil law of Rome. "Throughout the world at this moment there is no body of ten thousand Englishmen governed by a system of law which was not fashioned by themselves."