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CHARACTERS,

&c. &c.

INTRODUCTION.

OUR illustrious historian commences his history of Charles V. with observing, that the progress and the subversion of the Roman power produced two great revolutions, in the political state, and in the manners of the ancient Europeans. Then he proceeds to delineate their character, and describe their manners; that they were brave, independent and valiant; the state of society among them, the rudest and the most simple. They subsisted entirely by hunting or by pasturage. They neglected agriculture, and lived chiefly on milk, cheese, and flesh. T'he Goths were equally negligent of agriculture ; and society was in the same state among

the Huns, who disdained to cultivate the earth, or to touch a plough. The same manners took place among the Alans. While society remained in this simple state, men by uniting together scarcely relinquish any portion of their natural independence. The authority of civil government was very limited among them. During times of peace, they had no com

mon or fixed magistrate ; but the chief men of every district dispensed justice, and accommodated differences. Their kings had not absolute or unbounded power : their authority consisted rather in the privilege of advising, than in the power of commanding. Matters of small consequence were determined by the chief men; affairs of importance by the whole community. Every individual was left at liberty to choose whether he would take part in any military, enterprise which was proposed : there seems to have been no obligation to engage in it imposed on him by public authority. When any of the chief men proposed an expedition, such as approved of the cause and of the leader rose up, and declared their intention of following him. Af. ter coming under this engagement, those who did not fulfil it were considered as deserters and traitors, and were looked

upon

as infamous. It was necessary for him who aimed at being a leader, to gain adherents, and attach them to his person and interest. These adherents were called retainers, or clients, or companions. The chief distinction and power of the leaders consisted in being attended by a numerous band of chosen youth. This was their pride as well as ornament during peace, and their defence in war. The leaders gained or preserved the favour of these retainers by presents of armour and of horses, or by the profuse though inelegant hospitality with which they entertained them. The criminal jurisdiction of the magistrate was greatly circumscribed, and the people claimed the right of private resentment and revenge. Their magistrates had not the power of imprisoning or of inflicting any corporal punishment on a freeman. Every person was obliged to avenge the wrongs which his parents or friends had received. Their enmities were hereditary, but not irreconcilable. Every murder was com

pensated by paying a certain number of cattle. A part

of the fine went to the king, or state ; a part to the person who had been injured, or to his kindred. Their passion for warand action was extreme. In polished societies, ease and tranquillity are courted; in the rude, men delight in war and dangers. He who falls in war is recorded happy ; they who, die of old age, or of disease, are deemed infamous. They boast with the utmost exultation of the number of enemies whom they have slain ; and as the most glorious of all ornaments, they fasten the scalps of those who have fallen by their hands to the trappings of their horses.

FEUDAL SYSTEM.

THE feudal policy and laws were established with little variation in every kingdom of Europe. This uniformity originated from the similar state of society and manners to which they were accustomed. Instead of those loose associations which were sufficient for their defence in their original countries, they saw the necessity of uniting in more close confederacy to defend themselves against new invaders, or the ancient inhabitants whom their clemency had spared. Every freeman, upon receiving a portion of the lands which were divided, bound himself to appear in arms against the enemies of the community. This military service was the condition upon which he received and held his lands; and as they were exempted from every other burden, that tenure, among a warlike people, was deemed both

and honourable. The king or general who led them to conquest, continuing still to be the head of the colony, had of course the largest portion allotted to him.' Having thus acquired the means of rewarding past services, as

easy

well as of gaining new adherents, he parcelled out his lands with this view, binding those on whom they were bestowed to follow his standard with a number of men in proportion to the territory which they received, and to bear arms in his defence. His chief officers imitated the example of the sove. reign, and in distributing portions of their lands among their dependents, annexed the same condition to the grant. Thus, a feudal kingdom resembled a military establishment rather than a civil institution. The victorious army, cantoned out in the country which it seized, continued ranged under its proper officers, and subordinate to military command. The names of a soldier and of a freeman were synonymous. Every proprietor of land, girt with a sword, was ready to march at the command of his superior, and to take the field against the common enemy.

The principles of disorder and corruption are discernible in that constitution under its best and inost perfect form. They soon unfolded themselves, and spreading with rapidity through every part of the system, produced the most fatal effects. The bond of political union was extremely feeble; the sources of anarchy were innumerable. The monarchical and the aristocratical parts of the constitu. tion, having no intermediate power to balance them, were perpetually at variance, and justling with each other. The powerful vassals of the crown soon extorted a confirmation for life of those grants of lands, which being at first purely gratuitous, had been bestowed only during pleasure. Not satisfied with this, they prevailed to have them converted into hereditary possessions. One step more completed their usurpation, and rendered them unalienable. With an ambition no less enterprising, and more preposterous, they appropriated to themselves titles of honour, as well as offices of power or trust.

These personal marks of distinction, which the public administration bestows on illustrious merit, or which the public confidence confers on extraordinary abilities, were annexed to certain families, and transmitted like fiefs, from father to son, by hereditary right. The crown vassals having thus secured the possession of their lands and dignities, the nature of the feudal institutions, which though founded on subordination, verged to independence, led them to new and still more dangerous encroachments on the prerogatives of the sovereign. They obtained the power of supreme jurisdiction both civil and criminal within their own territories, the right of coining money, together with the privilege of carrying on war against their private enemies, in their own name and by their own authority. The ideas of political subjection were alınost entirely lost, and frequently scarcely any appearance of feudal subordination remained. Nobles who had acquired such enormous power scorned to consider themselves as subjects. They aspired openly at being independent : the bonds which connected the principal members of the constitution with the crown were dissolved. A kingdom considerable in name and in extent, was broken into as many separate principalities as it contained powerful barons. A thousand causes of jealousy and discord subsisted among them, and gave rise to as many wars. Every country in Europe, wasted or kept in alarm during these endless contests, was filled with castles or places of strength, erected for the security of the inhabitants, not against foreign force, but against internal hostilities. An universal anarchy, destructive in a great measure of all the advantages which men expect to derive from society, prevailed. The people, the most numerous as well as the most useful part of the community, were cither reduced to a state of actual servitude, or

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