As to church matters, the most prolific group is formed by general precepts based on religious and moral considerations, roughly 115, while secular privileges conferred on the Church hold about 62, and questions of organization some 20 clauses.
The statistical contrasts are especially sharp and characteristic when we take into account the chronological sequence in the elaboration of laws. Practically the entire code of aethelberht, for instance, is a tariff of fines for crimes, and the same subject continues to occupy a great place in the laws of Hlothhere and Eadric, Ine and Alfred, whereas it appears only occasionally in the treaties with the Danes, the laws of Withraed, Edward the Elder, aethelstan, Edgar, Edmund and aethelred. It reappears in some strength in the code of Canute, but the latter is chiefly a recapitulation of former enactments. The system of "compositions" or fines, paid in many cases with the help of kinsmen, finds its natural place in the ancient, tribal period of English history and loses its vitality later on in consequence of the growth of central power and of the scattering of maegths. Royalty and the Church, when they acquire the lead in social life, work out a new penal system based on outlawry, death penalties and corporal punishments, which make their first appearance in the legislation of Withraed and culminate in that of aethelred and Canute.
As regards status, the most elaborate enactments fall into the period preceding the Danish settlements. After the treaties with the Danes, the tendency is to simplify distinctions on the lines of an opposition between twelvehynd-men and twyhynd-men, paving the way towards the feudal distinction between the free and the unfree. In the arrangements of the commonwealth the clauses treating of royal privileges are more or less evenly distributed over all reigns, but the systematic development of police functions, especially in regard to responsibility for crimes, the catching of thieves, the suppression of lawlessness, is mainly the object of 10th and 11th century legislation. The reign of aethelred, which witnessed the greatest national humiliation and the greatest crime in English history, is also marked by the most lavish expressions of religious feeling and the most frequent appeals to morality. This sketch would, of course, have to be modified in many ways if we attempted to treat the unofficial fragments of customary law in the same way as the paragraphs of royal codes, and even more so if we were able to tabulate the indirect evidence as to legal rules.
But, imperfect as such statistics may be, they give us at any rate some insight into the direction of governmental legislation.
4. The next question to be approached concerns the pedigree of Anglo-Saxon law and the latter's natural affinities. What is its position in the legal history of Germanic nations? How far has it been influenced by non-Germanic elements, especially by Roman and Canon law? The oldest Anglo-Saxon codes, especially the Kentish and the West Saxon ones, disclose a close relationship to the barbaric laws of Lower Germany - those of Saxons, Frisians, Thuringians. We find a division of social ranks which reminds us of the threefold gradation of Lower Germany (edelings, frilings, lazzen-eorls, ceorls, laets), and not of the twofold Frankish one (ingenui Franci, Romani), nor of the minute differentiation of the Upper Germans and Lombards. In subsequent history there is a good deal of resemblance between the capitularies' legislation of Charlemagne and his successors on one hand, the acts of Alfred, Edward the Elder, aethelstan and Edgar on the other, a resemblance called forth less by direct borrowing of Frankish institutions than by the similarity of political problems and condition. Frankish law becomes a powerful modifying element in English legal history after the Conquest, when it was introduced wholesale in royal and in feudal courts.
The Scandinavian invasions brought in many northern legal customs, especially in the districts thickly populated with Danes. The Domesday survey of Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire, Norfolk, etc., shows remarkable deviations in local organization and justice (lagmen, sokes), and great peculiarities as to status (socmen, freemen), while from laws and a few charters we can perceive some influence on criminal law (nidings-vaerk), special usages as to fines (lahslit), the keeping of peace, attestation and sureties of acts (faestermen), etc. But, on the whole, the introduction of Danish and Norse elements, apart from local cases, was more important owing to the conflicts and compromises it called forth and its social results, - than on account of any distinct trail of Scandinavian views in English law. The Scandinavian newcomers coalesced easily and quickly with the native population.
The direct influence of Roman law was not great during the Saxon period: we notice neither the transmission of important legal doctrines, chiefly through the medium of Visigothic codes, nor the continuous stream of Roman tradition in local usage. But indirectly Roman law did exert a by no means insignificant influence through the medium of the Church, which, for all its insular character, was still permeated with Roman ideas and forms of culture. The Old English "books" are derived in a roundabout way from Roman models, and the tribal law of real property was deeply modified by the introduction of individualistic notions as to ownership, donations, wills, rights of women, etc. Yet in this respect also the Norman Conquest increased the store of Roman conceptions by breaking the national isolation of the English Church and opening the way for closer intercourse with France and Italy.
5. It would be useless to attempt to trace in a brief sketch the history of the legal principles embodied in the documents of Anglo-Saxon law. But it may be of some value to give an outline of a few particularly characteristic subjects.