Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

quiry. It has induced a strong pre- if Luther had been gratified by the disposition to find, amidst whatever Pope, no Reformation in Germany-if complexity of circumstance, some set- Anne Boleyn had been less or more tled rules to which all is conformable. virtuous, none in England. This meIt has prepared us to find order and thod of viewing things must needs be law amidst apparent confusion. To displeasing and repulsive to minds at the application of this strong scientific all trained in science, and accustomed faith to the intricate affairs of trade to contemplate an adequacy and uniand commerce, we owe our modern formity of causation. Reflective men political economy ; the merit of which have learned other habits, and shrink lies in the recognition of certain gen- from that wonder which results eral principles of human nature by only from some apparent enormity, which social industry is directed and some departure from all rational expropelled, and in the confidence it pectation. They desire to trace, as far teaches us to repose in such princi- as possible, an orderly progression of ples rather than in the artificial regu- affairs, to find for great national events lations of a legislature prompted by great national causes. They prefer to views of casual advantage. In the seek those causes in the wants, and great work of Adam Smith, we see passions, and notions of the people at the spirit of scientific arrangement large, rather than in the fortune or moving over the multifarious pursuits even the wisdom of individuals. They of civilized life, and out of the com- are led to see in political revolutions, mon transactions of the market place not the success of a conspirator or a and the exchange, become difficult patriot, but a change produced, perto comprehend from their very fami. haps slowly and by many circumstanliarity, buying and selling, money and ces, in the popular opinion. They debills, and all the jargon of the mer- tect in the institutions of a country not chant's ledger, creating for us an order- merely the sagacity of the single lely plan and a comprehensible scheme gislator, the Lycurgus or the Solon, of things. How much our science of called in to promulgate laws, but the psychology, (if we may yet venture to expression of public wants and public pronounce it a science,) is indebted to sentiments. To Luther and Henry the example of successful enquiry in VIII. they give their due share in physics, it were long to tell, and out of the Reformation, and acknowledge place. Jurisprudence, also, the slowest that their character and conduct served to be set in motion, has received an to guide its course, and modify its influence from this quarter. Here, nature, both in Germany and England; also, the scientific spirit is manifestly but the Reformation itself they have at work, scrutinizing, methodizing, dis- learned to trace to many and extensive carding with utter contempt that mere influences acting on the general mind. historical reason for the existence of a Instead of raising a foolish wonder law which has so often been made to at tlie accidental character of historical pass as a reason for its continuance, transactions, there appears more freand demanding for jurisprudence that quently an ambitious desire on the it be released from its connexion with part of the writer to deduce, if possifeudal times, and from traditionary ble, some law or order in that devemaxims, and find the sole ground for lopment of our nature, through great its principles in the actual benefit of national events which history records. society. On the study of history the A difficult task it is to find a method operation of the same spirit is notice. in a scene which astonishes and perable, though its effects here are not so plexes by its extreme intricacy. Yet, striking, and this general discipline doubtless, there is some true theory, of mind may be traced in our manner could we attain to it. There is an of reviewing the past.

order in the splendid confusion of the It used to be a favourite style of lu- historic phenomena, could we unravel cubration, to account for great histori- it. There is a divine plot, though we cal events by the mere accidents of cannot follow it ; for only half may be biography; and writers delighted in yet revealed. Of this at least we may raising our wonder at the tenuity of be sure, that God's government, which that thread on which the fate of em- acts in general by general laws, has pires was shown to be suspended. never been dethroned a moment, wbatThus, to refer to a familiar instance ever disaster, or confusion, or caprice,

or folly, has prevailed upon the earth titude a people ; and their origin and

that it stands even when all other decay are as distinct eras in the life of governments are fallen and despised, a nation. It is a frequent and obvious and is as punctually and steadfastly remark, that while they make effective obeyed amidst the tempestuous uproar the present convictions of men, they of the revolutionary city, as in the still. render change and a new conviction ness of retired hamlets.

perilous and difficult. To oppose or It is another symptom of an im- to deny, becomes rebellion or heresy. proved and scientific method of re- Institutions are conservative by their viewing the annals of the past, that, very nature.

But while this resista instead of exaggerating the personal ance to change, this tendency to fix qualities of some great and distinguish- and render stationary, is matter of ed individual, and separating his char- common observation, it has not been acter as much as possible from that of as distinctly observed that institutions the multitude that surrounded him, form the stepping-stones in a nation's those who write or discourse on his. intellectual progress. The new idea tory rather strive to collect from the to which they offer resistance has ofhero of remote times some knowledge ten sprung from themselves; and the of that neglected multitude. The parent institution has only kept the temper and feelings of the people, in junior from the seat of authority till every age, are the first subjects of curi- it had grown strong enough to occupy osity, and it is the habit of our times it with effect. Sometimes the form to read the minds of the multitude in of an institution has even suggested the conduct of the few who towered the principle which it was afterwards above it. At our first approach to to embody. The institution has been them, the records of remote periods found to involve ideas very imperfectseem, indeed, to give but little insight ly recognised, and not at all appreciainto the feelings and opinions of the ted by those who, on some emergenforgotten crowd. Heroes and legis- cy, or for a very limited purpose, had lators, monarchs and their ministers, constructed it; and an after age, conthe great conqueror or the great con, templating the scheme that had been spirator—these stand out in bold and transmitted to it, has extracted from solitary relief from the disregarded this a theory which it sets about forthlevel of humanity. These shine forth, with more fully to exemplify. Such the scattered luminaries, the bright has been the origin of our theory of wonders, of the historic firmament; representative government, which and it seems as hopeless here as in the grew out of institutions very faintly midnight depth of the natural firma. shadowing it forth, and which them. ment, to detect what lies between in the selves were the offspring of feudalism, wide “interstellar spaces." But, like the plain and palpable antagonist to as the astronomer learned all he has the principle of representation. revealed to us of the nature and vast- In illustration of some of these re. ness of remote space by observation of marks, and because it will afford an the luminous bodies that revolve in it; opportunity for offering others on the even so, and to a still greater extent, the same subject, we propose to take a moral observer, by a patient study of glance at the dark ages to make a these disconnected examples of charac- rapid survey of the principal instituter and events, learns to estimate those tions which distinguish the middle ages. distant times in which they moved and Of course, it is not presumed here had their being. And if we reflect on to give a complete delineation of these it, how could a nation reveal itself times; but only to touch upon what to posterity in more faithful colours, is peculiar to them, and which may than in the simple narrative of its interest us their successors. In the great men and great events, the first middle ages, embracing as they do examples and the highest products the history of Europe from the fifth of its own thoughts and feelings? to the fifteenth century, there is no

But still more important than the thing one may not meet with—no form history of individuals, however con- of government, and scarce any system ducted, is the history of institutions. of manners, of which some example These embody the public mind, and might not be given; but there are also render it operative; they give consis- some institutions exclusively their own. teney to numbers, and make of a mul The Italian cities conquered their rustic nobility, and framed common- but here alone is the spectacle prewealths in all their varieties ;-there sented of many independent nations was life beating still, it seemed, at the under one common hierarchy. Wars, heart of the old Roman republic ; but and wholesale massacres, and maligsuch institutions may be studied also, nant assassinations, abound in these and to more advantage, on the shores as in all barbarous ages, but their of Greece. The feudal monarch and chivalry is their own. Nor are there the feudal noble, these were peculiar wanting other peculiarities, whether to the times. So too religion, or super in their polity or jurisprudence, which stition, has every where prevailed, and will continue to furnish perpetual to. every people has had its priesthood; pics of curiosity and discussion.

FEUDALISM.

Let us attempt to characterise feu. (which varied in different parts of dalism as a system of polity; though, Europe, we may describe the feudal as one striking peculiarity lies in the system as a compromise between the complication it presents of political love of independent power and the and public functions with private and sense of common danger. The great proprietary rights, it is almost impos- proprietors of land, through the weak. sible to view it steadily for any length ness of the monarch, elevated themof time as a system of polity, without selves into petty princes ; but care for regarding it also in its juridical aspect, their own security deterred them from To defend the country against its altogether breaking the link of conenemies, and bear arms in the com- nexion, They willingly professed an mon cause, is a public duty ; it was allegiance to a common sovereign, here also the personal bond or obliga- yielding, however, just so much obetion by which the individual held his dience, as, under varying circumland, and which marked out the nature stances, could be enforced from them. of his property

To administer jus- While they preserved their fealty to tice is a public function ; it was here a superior, they were still more soli. seized on as a private right, and hand- citous to strengthen themselves by ed down as such with the hereditary their own clients or retainers, who estate.

held land under them, and with simi. In describing the feudal system, a lar obligations to those by which they language is sometimes used which were bound to their sovereign. Thus would imply, that at the conquest of grew up feudalism, which is distinEurope by the barbarians, the soil guished by its spirit of independence, Was divided amongst the several chiefs, combined with subordination-a subwith a stipulation that they should be ordination, however, which was never prepared to join in a common defence regulated by any views of public welof the common conquest; which gave fare, but by the necessity or power of origin to the tenure-the holding land the parties immediately concerned in on the bond of fealty and military the treaty. service. But we need hardly say that How novel a spectacle did the feuthe feudal system was no immediate dal polity present! Europe had been result of the conquest. It grew up

the scene of the free municipal afterwards. It grew from the en- governments of Greece and Rome, croachment of the baron, or military and the great central empire of the landowner, under the monarchies Cæsars-What did it now exhibit ? established by the barbarians. His There was no municipality, no cenfealty was not a fresh bond of subor. tralization; government was cast forth dination entered into by the noble with from towns; the seat of power was in the monarch, but rather the last thin the country, in the forest, in the solithread to which his obedience was tary castle of the baron.

The town, worn. Thus in France, it is not under impoverished and half depopulated, Clovis, or Charlemagne, but under sunk into a private property, and bc. Hugh Capet, the head of its third dy- came part of the lord's domain. nasty of kings, that the feudal system Speculative politicians have marked is seen flourishing in all its rude and out the several stages in the progress anomalous perfection. As a general to civilisation, and described the asstatement, which will leave no false cending scale from the huntsman to impression of the course of events, the shepherd, from the agriculturist to

one.

the citizen. Here the first was ruling rights, the monarchy itself was comover the last-the huntsman over men pelled to find its first support, the congregated into cities. The country basis of its power, on its own private was dominant over the town. The possessions, in its territorial domain tyrant—as in the language of Greece -its share in the proprietorship of he might be called--was a rude war- the soil. The king stood upon his rior, who, even in his love of domin- rights much in the same spirit that the ion, loved chiefly the independence barons did on theirs; and, if he exit secured to him; whose passion, ceeded his own, or infringed on theirs, next to war, was the chase; who, it was a case, as is well known, for when he took possession of his terri. legitimate war; and the contest was tory, looked first for his hunting field, decided by arms which placed both and made a waste if he did not find parties on a level. In the privileges,

The hall of his forest-castle or, as they were called in his case, was the seat of justice ; his bailiff or the prerogatives which the sovereign his seneschal administered the law, claimed, he had frequently as little in and the law became such as his bailiff view as his barons, the public good, or seneschal could administer. or any pretence of the public good.

How different, in its very spirit, was In the general confusion that prethis feudal polity from either the muni- vailed, he snatched at privileges quite cipal government which Rome, in its personal, and some utterly at variance freedom, had extended over the na- with the high duties of his station as tions of Europe, or that centralized preserver of the peace. While the empire under which, in later times, it feudatory was seen jealously shuiting had collected them! In these, the out the king's judges from his own good of the commonwealth or of the little principality, the chief magistrate public was the reason-or at least the contrived a source of revenue in the avowed reason—for placing political sale of charters of pardon to criminals power in the hands that held it. The who did not surely purchase till they public good was professedly para- needed them. mount. If an emperor ruled, and The share of power which a feudal ruled despotically, and gave the law monarch possessed, depended greatly from his own lips, it was still con- on his personal qualifications—his tended, and perhaps believed, that sagacity and courage. His throne this aggrandizement of one individual was no couch for regal repose; it was was for the benefit of all. But here, not only the seat of the highest funcin feudal Europe, the individual was tionary in the land, but of the most paramount in the state. His rights, laborious, and whose duties it rewhich indeed were whatever his power quired the greatest energy and abihad been able to make good, were un lity to perform. He often needed blushingly proclaimed as independent that his sceptre should be an “iron -as first to be considered and pro rod," to bruise and break the distected; while the public welfare, its obedience of his turbulent subjects. peace and order, were to follow as Yet there were in the feudal system, they might, from the compromise of and in feudal times, certain steady personal and rival claims. Every influences which greatly favoured the thing was property or privilege. monarchy, and which rendered it Offices, whether judicial or adminis- ultimately triumphant.

The sovetrative-which in every theory of reign had a claim on the fealty of his government are held for the public, nobles which they could not be disand supposed to devolve, through posed to dispute, because it was whatever channel, by a course pre- founded on the same principles on scribed by the public will-were here which they in their turn claimed claimed as property, were converted obedience from their retainers. They into personal and hereditary rights. had no hostility to the institution of Property was more sacred than power, monarchy, but an interest in preseror rather power became itself a species ving it, though at as little expense to of property.

themselves as possible. When, thereIn this curious system, made up of fore, they did confederate against the the sturdy advancement of individual crown, the want of a decisive object,

* The legal definition of prerogative is that which is right in the case of the govereign, but not in the subject.

and the speedy entrance of jealousy afterwards to be still more confirmed, and division amongst a number of in- and still more widely extended, by the dependent and self-willed nobles, gave institution of chivalry, gave rise to the king a manifest advantage, who, that spirit of loyalty so peculiar to the by watching his time, could fall upon monarchies of Europe ; so peculiar, his enemies singly. Our Richard II., that we feel the word loyalty to be al. not the most formidable of princes, together inapplicable to any relationbut by no means deficient in craft and ship under an Eastern despotism. The simulation, and that species of cour- . feudal subject took his oath of alleage necessary to practise them with giance, and when that feudal subject effect, after having suffered all but de- became a knight, it grew to be a point position by a confederacy of nobles, of sacred honour to be faithful to that obtained, in this way, over all of them allegiance. The bond of subjection a complete predominance and a san- being in a manner self-imposed, it was guinary revenge. The monarch, too, reconciled with the highest sense of was generally popular with the multi- personal dignity; and Europe has tude and the inhabitants of towns, seen her proudest sons associate their who looked on him as the preserver of honour with obedience to one who had the

peace, and a refuge from the ty- no means of rewarding or compelling ranny of the barons. The Church and it. An Asiatic prince is surrounded the lawyers both exalted regal power, by prostrate slaves-ejected from his in the strength and stability of which throne, he is a slave himself: this they saw the only chance for the equal country has witnessed the extraordiadministration of the laws. The mo. nary spectacle of many noble families narchy had made common cause with adhering, at all hazards, in their allegood government, and steadily ad- giance to a wandering outcast, of hosvanced with the peace and quiet of the tile religion, and endowed with talents kingdom. That notion of a sacred neither for war nor peace. right which the Church sanctioned, was We shall not stay at present to diseven supported by a feudal analogy. cuss how much of the spirit of feudal. It was said that, as the lesser baron ism has descended to our times, and held of the greater, and the greater of whether, in its subdued and controlled the king, so the king held of God. condition, it continues to act for good How far this fanciful analogy gave or for evil; we are desirous of showadditional weight to the doctrine of a ing how it acted on other contempor"divine right” of kings, we leave to ary

institutions. It

may

be described conjecture. The regal function gained as standing in a collateral relationship a more certain advantage from another to the Church, and in an ancestral one quarter. The oath of fealty sworn to the system of representation. by the feudal vassal, when it came

THE CHURCH.

Whilst Europe was being divided governments through which the Church and subdivided into kingdoms and extended. The same clergy were principalities by feudalism, it was still spread over countries now torn asunkept united by an antagonist force, der by the irruption of the barbarians. and preserved, in one sense, entire To preserve their power, their influunder its common ecclesiastical go- ence, and possessions, they must convernment. Just in proportion as this tinue united ; to continue united they division in the civil polity proceeded, must have some head, some common did his unity of the ecclesiastical centre—the authority of the Roman power become more manifest, for it pontiff was already the highest in the became more valuable. That eleva- Church—they willingly exalt bis sution which the Roman see obtained in premacy for the protection and conthe middle ages, so very different from sistence of the whole order. The pawhat had been conceded to it in the triarchs of the Greek Church were not Chureh of the empire, is not so much deficient in ambition, and could not to be traced to the ambition of its possibly be wanting in theology to Gregories, or to any concerted scheme, support it; yet they never attained a as to the political condition of those power resembling that of the Roman

« ZurückWeiter »