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ADAM CLARKE, LL.D.,
ETC., ETC., ETC.
Man may be considered as having a twofold origin-natural, which is common and the same to all-patronymic, which belongs to the various families of which the whole human race is composed. This is no arbitrary distinction; it has existed from the commencement of the world; for although God has made of one blood all the nations of men to dwell on the face of the whole earth, so that all the inhabitants of the world have sprung from one original pair; yet, this family became speedily divided into branches, less or more famous or infamous, as the progenitor was good or bad: or, in other words, pious, wise, and useful; or, profligate, oppressive, and cruel."
This distinction existed even in the family of Adam, as we may see in the lives of Cain and Seth : the posterity of the former being uniformly marked as wicked and cruel, and even apostates from the true God; while the posterity of the latter were equally remarkable for all the social and moral virtues, and were the preservers, as well as the patterns, of pure and undefiled religion.
This patronymic distinction is not less evident in the great Abrahamic family,-in the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac; from the former of whom sprang the various tribes of Idumeans and Arabs, whose history occupies so large a part of the annals of the human race; and from the latter, all the Jewish tribes, and that singular family continued, by a chain of the most remarkable and miraculous providences, from which came Jesus the Messiah, the Almighty Saviour of the human race.
To trace this any farther would be foreign to my design; as
it has only been introduced as an apology for the slight notice that shall be taken of the family from which the subject of the present Memoir has derived his origin.
Whether the family of the Clarkes were of Norman extraction cannot be easily ascertained. If it even were so, it is pretty evident that it did not come in with William the Conqueror; as no such name exists in any copy of the Roll of Battle Abbey, (several of which have been searched for this purpose,) on which roll was entered all the names of the nobility and distinguished families that accompanied William in his first expedition; or who afterwards came over and settled in England.
It is well known that clericus was originally the name of an office, and signified the clerk or learned man, who in primitive times, was the only person in his district who could write and read, or had taken pains to cultivate his mind in such literature as the times afforded, and, from his knowledge and skill, could be useful to his fellow citizens; and who, in consequence, did not fail to accumulate respectable property, which was maintained and increased in the family; one of the descendants, generally the eldest son, being brought up to literature, and thus succeeding to the office of his father, and the emolument of that office. This title, in process of time, became the surname of the person who bore the office; and clericus, le clerc, the clerk, and afterwards Clarke, became the cognomen, or surname, by which all the descendants of the family were distinguished. As those persons who were designed for ecclesiastical functions generally got an education superior to the rest of the community, hence they were termed clerici, clerks; and this is the legal title by which every clergyman is distinguished to the present day.
It has been intimated that the term clericus, the clerk, was originally given to the person who was the only one in his district that could write and read. This may seem a strange insinuation in the nineteenth century, when every child among the millions in England can read; and almost every grown up person can write. But it was not so in ancient times : can the reader believe that that there was a period when some of our own British kings could not write their own name! It is nevertheless a fact. About A. D. 700, Withred was king of Kent. He issued an ordinance, or Charter of Liberties, freeing all the churches under his dominion from tribute and taxation. This charter is found in the Archives of the Cathedral of Canterbury, and is published by Wilkins in his Concilia, vol. i. p. 63, and concludes in this remarkable manner :
“Actum die sexto Aprilis, anno regni nostri octavo: Indictione duodecima, in loco qui appellatur Cilling.
“Ego Wythredus, rex Cantiæ, hæc omnia supra scripta et confirmavi, atque a me dictata ; propria manu signum sanctæ crucis, pro ignorantia literarum expressit."
“Done the sixth day of April, [A. D. 700,] in the eighth year of our reign : Indiction xii., in the place called Killing.
"I Withred, king of Kent, have confirmed the above liberties, dictated by myself; and because I am unlearned, [i. e. cannot write,] I have, with my own hand, signed this with the sign of the holy cross .”
This was not only a common case in those times, but in times later by some centuries. Many of the ancient charters are signed with crosses, and this was often because those who subscribed could not write. It is doubtful whether William the Conqueror, or any of his sons, except Henry, could write. The foundation charter of Battle Abbey has thirteen signatures to it: they are all crosses, each different, and all the names are written by the same scribe, but each cross is made by the person to whose name it is affixed: through a kind of complaisance, those who could write signed with a cross, to keep the king and nobles in countenance. Of this ignorance it would be easy to multiply instances.
In an ancient record, called the Boldon Book, which contains a census and survey of the whole bishoprick and palatinate of Durham, after the manner of Domesday Book, made by Bishop Hugh de Puteaco, or Pudsey, A. D. 1183, we find many proofs of men being distinguished by their offices, trades, &c., and the following instance is remarkable: among many other persons who held lands in the township of Wolsyngam in that county, and who performed certain services to the lord for the lands they held, according to the ancient feudal system ; we find the following entry :
Adamus CLERICUS, tenet triginta acras, et reddit unam marcam. “Adam the CLERK, (or Adam Clarke,) holds thirty acres of land, for which he pays annually one mark.”
Others plough and harrow, that is, employ so many days in ploughing and harrowing the bishop's lands, in the way of boon or annual rent.
That the term is used as the name of an office here, is sufficiently evident from the names of office frequently occurring joined to the Christian names, to distinguish the persons who held those offices : e. g.:
Alanus Fullo, tenet unum toftum et croftum pro duobus solidis, et facit quatuor porcationes autumpno. “Allen the Fuller, holds one toft and one croft, for two shillings, and makes four porcations in autumn."
Aldredus FABER, xii. acr. et red. iii. sol. “Aldred the Smith, holds twelve acres, for which he pays three shillings.”