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to administer justice, to preserve tranquillity, to collect the revenues, and to lead, when required, the free proprietors into the field. The title of Duke implied a higher dignity, and commonly gave authority over several counties. The reigning family was immutable ; but, at every vacancy, the heir awaited the confirmation of the people, whether that were a substantial privilege or a mere ceremony. The barbarous conquerors of Gaul and Italy were guided by notions very different from those of Rome, who had imposed her own laws upon all the subjects of her empire. Ad. hering in general to their ancient customs, without desire of improvement, they left the former inhabitants in unmolested enjoyment of their civil institutions. The name of Gaul or Roman was not entirely lost in that of Frenchman, nor had the separation of the laws ceased till after the time of Charlemagne. In the South of France the Roman jurisprudence survived the revolutions of the Middle Ages.

The essential distinction of ranks in France was founded upon the possession of land or upon civil em ployment. The aristocracy of wealth preceded that of birth, which, indeed, is still chiefly dependent upon the other for its importance. A Frank of large estate was styled a Noble. If he wasted or was despoiled of his wealth, his descendants fell into the mass of the people, and the new possessor became noble in his stead. In those ages, property did not very frequently change hands and desert the families who had long possessed it. Wealth

them power,


power gave them preëminence.

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The essential principle of a feudal tenure was a mutual contract of support and fidelity. Whatever obligations of service to his lord were laid upon the vassal, corresponding duties of protection were imposed on the lord toward his vassal. If these were transgressed on either side, the one forfeited his land, and the other his seigniory, or the right over it. The vassal was bound to serve his lord in war; in battle he was to lend him his horse when dismounted, to adhere to his side while fighting, and to go into captivity as a hostage for him when taken. Forty days was the usual term during which the tenant of a knight's fee was bound to be in the field at his own expense.

Every lord, in those days, having independent juris. diction, and his own vassals immediately devoted to him, was in fact a petty sovereign, and a few of these in a country were generally an overmatch for the king, and often occasioned the greatest disorders. Hardly ever has there been a government in which there was less provision for the security and happiness of the bulk of the people than in the feudal govern. ment. Had not religion, or rather superstition, provided an asylum to a portion of the inhabitants, those times, in which this system was at its height, would have constituted a period of utter anarchy. Thefts, rapine, murders, and disorders prevailed in every kingdom of Europe to a degree almost incredible, and scarcely compatible with the existence of civil society. Every offender sheltered himself under some chieftain, who shielded him from justice. Some of this portion of the feudal spirit seems to have lingered in England as late as the time of Shakspeare.


Davy. I grant your Worship that he is a knave, Sir ; but yet God forbid, Sir, but a knave should have some countenance at his friend's request. I have served your Worship truly, Sir, this eight years; and if I cannot, once or twice in a quarter, bear out a knave against an honest man, I have but a very little credit with your Worship. The knave is mine honest friend, Sir; therefore, I beseech your Worship, let him be countenanced.

4 Shallow. Go to. I say he shall have no wrong."

The two grand elements which operated on society from the establishment of the barbarous invaders in Ro. man Gaul, and which maintained a constant struggle for predominance over the opinions of men from the seventh to the tenth century, were the physical force of the conquerors, and the moral and intellectual force of the clergy. The annals of the Merovingians and the Carlovingians are filled with the quarrels and mutual encroachments of the warriors and the ecclesiastics. The one party seized the lands or the treasures of cathedrals and monasteries, and the other took revenge by interdicts and excommunications ; but about the tenth century the triumph of the Church may be considered complete. Its advantages over its rival, from the beginning, were obvious. It was a regular institution, and possessed a formal hierarchy, consecrated forms, a written code, and invariable maxims. It pursued a definite object with order and perseverance, The armed feudality, on the other hand, was but a confused mass of isolated forces, a government without a common object. What it gained by violence it lost by want of system.

Nearly half the territory of Roman Gaul belonged to the monasteries and cathedrals; in addition to which,


they reaped the tenth of the productions of the other half. Besides the influence of riches, the clergy possessed the influence of superior intelligence. The little knowledge current was confined to them. They alone could read and write. They were necessary in every castle. From the suzerain to the lowest vassal, all had their chaplain to draw up their deeds, to recite the breviary, or enliven the long nights of winter with some tale of chivalry. The Christian faith of the Middle Ages may be considered as a vast Polytheism; eleven thousand saints were habitually invoked by the people. Before we arrive at the end of the eleventh century, we find that the Church had become the unique source of all social existence. Every thing flowed from it; the moral and intellectual order of men's ideas was founded on its doctrines; and nothing existed out of its pale, but brutal and unorganized force. At this period, Europe may be considered a great religious federative republic, governed by a clerical aristocracy, with the Pope for a President.

But the Church itself was destined to undergo its revolution. The Popes first set up their pretensions as spiritual monarchs ; the Church then lost its republican form of government by councils, and assumed an aspect altogether monarchical. As letters began to revive, a source of instruction was opened to the people, which did not flow from the Church, and its authority thus received a blow from which it never recov. ered. When the clergy ceased to hold despotic sway over the minds of men, the feudal institutions remained, though greatly changed and mutilated. Another form of government arose.

The people collected in


towns, and began to be sensible of their force, and to vindicate their rights. Scattered abroad in the fields, or collected in small hamlets, the serfs were the slaves of their masters' will ; but when once they had gathered together in large bodies, and had learned to sympathize with each other, and to act in concert, they disdained the authority of their lords.

The Middle Ages, although they constitute a period of war, violence, and destitution of letters, have been, in general, spoken of in terms of too great disparagement. We owe much to what have been termed the Dark Ages. The human mind was very far from being alike inactive in all the portions of this long period. During

During the darkest part of it, which extends from the fall of the Western Empire to the beginning of the thirteenth century, the Arabic numerals were introduced into Europe, paper was manufactured from linen, gunpowder and the mariner's com. pass were discovered. Before the end of this century, oil-painting, printing, engraving, and Gothic architec. ture closed this series of improvements. These inven. tions were proofs of mental activity, as well as incitements to it; and it may even be doubted whether the human mind could have rendered a greater service to the science of the succeeding age, than in thus preparing the soil which it was to cultivate, and constructing new instruments for its use. The government, laws, and manners of the Middle Ages have lately been studied with a diligence due to the investigation of the sources whence has proceeded the diversity of institutions and national character which still prevails in Europe. The literature of the same period has recently almost

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