Wednesday, October 26, 2016
For those thinking back fondly to the days when a nation's leaders spent time translating Augustine and Boethius, note that Alfred the Great died on this date in 899 (there's a nice short piece on Alfred here by A Clerk of Oxford). Alfred is, of course, one of the great figures in English legal history on account of his compilation of laws in the domboc. For an interesting discussion of Alfred's use of Christian sources in the prologue to his legal code, see this article by Michael Treschow, which ends on this hopeful note:
If Alfred was for the Victorians a mirror or icon of their own self-regard, of their empire, of their civic piety, he is becoming for us a mirror of our suspiciousness, of our mistrust of public virtue and piety, indeed of our disdain of anything that claims to be good. But let us be wary of any easy or hasty reduction of Alfred’s image to an opportunistic, even Machiavellian, guise. This prologue’s public use of piety reads as no mere calculated display. Reverence for the king of Wessex is beside its point. Its real work is to present Scripture that it may search the hearts of its readers and direct them to serve not themselves but live in charity with their neighbour — especially in the practice of public life. It allows that the good of the state is a harmony of love and justice. It allows that the state can seek to be gracious through obedience to basic principles of revealed truth.