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under the Pagan Emperors, we must be convinced that it acquired a not insignificant elevation from such zealous supervision on the part of the priesthood. We shall find, moreover, that in this respect as in many others the maxims established under the Roman power were carried out even more energetically by the barbarian monarchs: 'for, whereas in the fourth century the censorship thus exercised by the prelates was indirect and purely ecclesiastical, the sixth beheld it, especially in Spain, occupying a recognized place in the legislation of Europe.
Indeed it may be broadly asserted that the establishment of the Christian faith by Constantine formed an era in the political as well as in the religious history of the world; for, ever since the Augustan age, the despotic power of the Emperor had been assuming a more unmitigated and revolting form; the popular spirit, which in better days would have prompted an active resistance, sunk as the vices and injustice of the court assumed a deeper dye. During no reigns had the depravity of the rulers and the political insignificance of the ruled been more apparent than in those of the predecessors and rivals of Constantine. Whatever excess of political sway, again, might fall into clerical hands, was at any rate exercised by men of fixed principles and disciplined intellects?; by men, moreover, who, as they had in general risen from the people and owed their
See the testimony of the pagan Nectarius to Augustine (Aug. Ep. 90).
elevation to their intrinsic merits, could not for the most part do otherwise than act in antagonism to the caprices of hereditary tyranny.
But in order more fully to appreciate the action of the sacerdotal order on the decaying Imperial system throughout Europe, we must obtain a previous insight into the political condition of the vast Roman provinces, and review the gradual alterations introduced, more particularly in the lands of the West, by a long course of selfish mismanagement.
The whole political and social history of Rome presents an instance, to which we know no parallel, of a series of traditional maxims of statecraft carried out amid circumstances the most various and nations the most remote. The infant republic, itself a flourishing municipality, soon learnt to respect, not only the immemorial Latian customs, but its own manifest interests, by framing the constitution of every one of its subject states on the same municipal model: and the citizens of many an Italian township, while they beheld the outward machinery of government unchanged and the old social distinctions permanent as ever, might forget their dependence on the great original at Rome, or were reminded of it only by the exercise of privileges before unknown. But it could scarcely have been foreseen by the most ambitious believer in the destined supremacy of the “gens togata,” that the system which had originated in the secluded valleys of central Italy was to be applied, and to all appearance successfully so, to every one of the unpolished tribes of Western Europe. Yet so it unquestionably was, for, eight centuries after the double throne had first been raised in the Roman Forum, and a proud aristocracy had exulted over the triumph of the Senate, we find the cities of remotest Gaul groaning under the authority of as unscrupulous “duumviri,” and suffering from the increasing immunities of a more numerous senatorial order. And assuredly of all the many systems created by the ingenuity of statesmen or conquerors none was ever more secure for the superior class, and none ever more inevitably pernicious to the inferior one. The results closely consequent on the extension of Roman domination throughout Italy had been reproduced, no less fatally, over the whole surface of the Empire; and nowhere more so than in those countries from which may be traced so much of what is peculiar in modern civilization. Gaul and Spain, where the legions had experienced such a resistance as can proceed only from the energetic will of a free and united population, had been plunged into the lowest depths of misery, aggravated, rather than palliated, by the mask of a meretricious culture. In those countries, as in Italy, reformation had been rendered hopeless by the utter disappearance of the old independent agricultural class ; while, in its stead, countless gangs of slaves extracted from the soil such scanty produce as can alone be looked for by the employers of compulsory labour. Among the influential classes, too, the disease was as painfully apparent. All ancient patriotism had vanished; as vanish it must from among men who, confining their political views to the limits of a narrow municipality, were taught by the whole system under which they lived to expect orders, defenders, and, if need were, punishment, from the Capital alone. And not only had the moral dislocation of society proceeded so far as to annihilate all regard to Imperial interests and to ruin public spirit throughout Europe, but the unnatural restrictions of Roman legislation had effected such a separation of class from class as has never been equalled, even in the most unpropitious age of decaying feudalism. For the gradual extinction of the middle class, on which alone can society be securely based, had exposed the possessors of property to all the burdens without any of the highest honors of colonial government. The unvarying policy of the Empire selected administrators of enlightened provinces as exclusively from the precincts of Rome itself as when viceconsuls or proctors were delegated to restrain or conquer the barbarous transalpine nations. Hence the Imperial patronage, so liberally lavished upon Rome, was restricted in the provinces to exemptions and monopolies; and small as the number of curials, or tax-paying proprietors, necessarily was, each extended immunity caused the burthens to fall with yet greater severity on those who were still exposed to them. An inseparable barrier was thus placed between the two upper ranks of society; for the privileged orders continued to rejoice in Imperial favour, and to accumulate wealth amid elsewhere increasing poverty, while the rate-payers, on the other hand,
crushed by taxation, and prevented by the severity of penal legislation from rising above the station to which they had been born, were deprived of all those motives which tend to increase either the wealth or the population of a country..
Such were the political consequences of the unfortunate combination of an unprincipled government with a needy exchequer and a yet more needy people, when the fiat of Constantine added to the various and contending classes we have enumerated another, destined soon to exceed them all in social and political importance. From the very first it was evident that no event more propitious to every part of society could have occurred than that which thus elevated the clergy, enjoying the
i The following passages, quoted by Savaro on Sidonius Apollinaris (Ep. v. 17), show how the provincials often preferred removing to poverty in the Gothic and Burgundian kingdoms to remaining under Roman misgovernment. “Ut inveniantur inter eos quidam Romani, qui malint inter barbaros pauperem libertatem quam inter Romanos tributariam solicitudinem sustinere.” Orosius, (Hist.] vii. 41. “ Itaque passim vel ad Gothos vel ad Bagaudas vel ad alios ubique dominantes barbaros migrant, et commigrasse non pænitet; malunt enim sub specie captivitatis vivere liberi quam sub specie libertatis esse captivi.” Salvian. [De gub. Dei.] v. st. i. p. 170. ed. Ritters. 1623.] “Unde et hucusque Romani, qui in regno Gothorum consistunt, adeo amplectuntur, ut melius sit illis cum Gothis pauperes vivere quam inter Romanos potentes esse et grave jugum tributi portare." Isidor. Chron. ær. ccccxlvii. Sidonius (Ep. vii. 12), in congratulating his friend Ferreolus on his appointment to the see of Arles, celebrates his previous popularity as prefect, “ quia sic habenas Galliarum moderarere, ut possessor exhaustus tributario jugo relevaretur.”