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Woos him to hold a duet in a smile,
Maud. A perjur'd slave !
And for his perjury,
Maud. A frost upon his summer !
A Queen's nod
60,—THE FEUDAL SYSTEM.-I.
GUIZOT. A good proof that, in the tenth century, the feudal system was necessary, and the only social state then possible, is the universality of its establishment. Whereever barbarism ceased, every thing took the feudal form. At first, men saw in it nothing but the triumph of chaos. All unity, all general civilization vanished; on all sides society was seen to dismember itself, and a number of small, obscure, isolated, and incoherent societies to arise in its place. This appeared to contemporaries the dissolution of all things, universal anarchy. Consult either the poets or the chroniclers of that time; they all believed themselves at the end of the world. It was, however, a new and real society which commenced, the feudal society, which was so necessary, so inevitable, so much the only possible consequence of the anterior state, that every thing was merged in it, and adopted its form. Even those elements which appeared the most foreign to this system, the Church, municipalities, royalty, were forced to accommodate themselves to it; the churches became suzerains and vassals, the towns had lords and vassals, royalty was disguised under suzerainship. Every thing was given in fief; not only lands, but certain rights, the right of felling in the forests, the right of fishing: the churches gave their perquisites in fief, their gains by baptisms, and the churching of women. Water and money were given in fief. In the same way that all the general elements of society entered into the feudal frame, so the smallest details, the least important acts of common life came under the operation of feudalism.
In seeing the feudal form thus take possession of all things we are inclined to believe, in the first moment, that the essential vital principle of feudalism prevailed every where. This is a great, mistake. In taking the feudal form, the institutions, the elements of society which were not analogous to the feudal system, did not renounce their peculiar nature and principles. The feudal church did not cease to be animated and governed, at bottom, by the theocratic principle ; and in order to make this principle the prevailing one, it laboured incessantly, now in concert with the royal power, now with the pope, now with the people, to destroy this system, of which, so to speak, it bore the livery. It was the same with royalty, and with the corporations ; in the one, the monarchical, in the other, the demo cratic principle, continued, in reality, to rule. Despite their feudal garb, these various elements of European society constantly laboured to free themselves from a form foreign to their truc nature, and to assume that which corresponded with their peculiar and vital principle.
Having established the universality of the feudal form, we must avoid concluding from this the universality of the feudal principle, and studying feudalism indifferently wherever we meet with its physiognomy. To know and comprehend this system perfectly, to distinguish and judge of its effects with reference to modern civilization, we must examine it where the principle and form are in harmony; we must study it in the hierarchy of lay possessors of fiefs, in the community of the conquerors of the European territory. There we find the true feudal society; in that relation we will now consider it.
I spoke just now of the importance of moral questions, and of the necessity of not avoiding any such. There is another order of considerations, entirely opposed to these, and which are in general too much neglected ; I mean the material condition of society, the material changes in the being and living of mankind, produced by a fresh event, by a revolution, by a new social state. This has not been always sufficiently considered; it has not been sufficiently enquired what modifications these great crises of the world made in the material existence of men, in the material aspect of their relations. These modifications have more influence on general society than is supposed. Who does not know how much the influence of climate has been studied, and how much importance is attached to it by Montesquieu. If we consider the direct influence of climate upon men, it is, perhaps, not so extensive as has been supposed ; it is, at any rate, vague, and difficult to discover. But the indirect influence of climate, that which results, for example, from the fact that in a warm country, men live in the open air, whilst in a cold country, they shut themselves in the interior of their habitations, that here they live on one kind of food, there on another, are facts of extreme importance, and which, by simply changing material life, act powerfully on civilization. Every great revolution produces in the social state modifications of this kind, which should be carefully considered.
The establishment of the feudal system caused one of these modifications, tho importance of which must be allowed. It altered the distribution of the inhabi tants on the face of the land. Until then, the owners of the land, the sovereigu population, lived in united masses, more or less numerous, either settled in the interior of the towns, or wandering in bands, through the country. Feudalism caused these men to become isolated, each in his own habitation, at great distances from each other. You will perceive, at a glance, wbat influence this change necessarily exercised on the character and the course of civilization. The social preponderance, the government of society suddenly passed from the towns to the country; private property took precedence of public property, private life of public life. Such was the first effect, an effect purely material, of the triumph of feudal society. The further we investigate it, the more clearly will the consequences of this single fact be unfolded before our eyes.
Let us examine this society in itself, and see what part it has played in the history of civilization. Let us first take feudalism in its most simple, its primitive, fundamental element; let us consider the case of a single possessor of a fief, in his domain; let us sce what will be the position, and the duties of all those who compose the little society by which he is surrounded.
He establishes himself in an isolated, elevated situation, which his first care is to render safe and strong; he there constructs what he will call his castle. With whom does he establish himself ? With his wife and children ; perhaps come free
men, who have not become proprietors, have attached themselves to his person, and continue to live with him, at his table. These are the inhabitants of the interior of the castle. All around, at the foot, are grouped a little population of colonists and serfs, who cultivate the land belonging to the holder of the fief. In the midst of this inferior population religion plants a church, and establishes a priest. In the early days of the feudal system this priest was generally, at the same time the chaplain of the castle, and the pastor of the village ; in time the two characters became distinct; and the village had its pastor living there, beside his church. This was the elementary feudal society, the feudal molecule, so to speak. It is this element which we have now to examine ; we must do so, in the two points of view from which it is necessary to regard all facts. What have been its results towards the development, first, of man, secondly, of society.
We are quite right in examining this little society which I have just described, on these two points, and in placing faith in the result; for it is the type, the faithful image, of the whole feudal society. The lord, the people on his domains, and the priest, are the features of feudalism, on a great as well as a small scale, separating from it royalty and the towns, which are distinct and foreign elements.
The first fact which strikes me in considering this little society, is the prodigious importance which the possessor of the fief must have had, in his own eyes, and in the eyes of those who surrounded him. The sentiment of personality, of individual liberty, was supreme in the barbaric life. Here it was entirely different: it was no longer only the liberty of the man, of the warrior ; it was the importance of the proprietor, the chief of the family, the master. This position necessarily gave rise to an impression of immense superiority : a superiority entirely personal, and very different from any we meet with in the course of other civilizations. I will gire a proof of this. I take, in the ancient world, a grand aristocratic position, a Roman patrician, for example : like the feudal lord, the Roman patrician was the chief of the family, the master and superior. He was, besides, a religious magistrate, the pontiff in his family. But the importance of a religious magistrate was conferred on him from without; it was not an importance purely personal and individual ; he received it from on high ; he was the delegate of the Divinity ; the interpreter of the religious creeds. The Roman patrician was, besides, the member of a corporation which lived united in the same place, a member of the senate ; this again was an importance which came to him from without, from his corporation, an extraneous, borrowed importance. The greatness of the ancient aristocrats, associated with a religious and political character, was ra er that of the position, of the corporation in general, than of the individual. That of the possessor of a fief was entirely individual; he owed nothing to any one ; all his rights, all his power was derived from himself. He was not a religious magistrate, he was not a member of a senate ; all his importance was contained in his own person ; all that he was, he was of himself, in his own pame. What an influence such a situation must have exercised upon him who occupied it! What personal haughtiness, what prodigious pride, to be plain, what insolence must have arisen in his soul! Above him no superior of whom he was the representative and interpreter; beside him no equal; no powerful general law oppressed him ; there was no external power which could control his will; he felt no curb but the limits of his strength, and the presence of danger. Such was the moral influence of this situation on the character of him who held it.
I proceed now to a second consequence, also most important, and too little considered, the particular turn of the feudal family spirit.
Let us glance over the various family systems; we will first take the patriarchal family, of which the Bible and the oriental monuments give the type This family
was very numerous ; it was a tribe. The chief, the patriarch, lived with his children, his near relatives, the various generations which were gathered around him, all his kindred and his servants, and he not only lived with them, but he had the same interests, the same occupations, he led the same life. Was not this the position of Abraham, of the patriarchs? is it not that of the chiefs of the Arab tribes, who still keep up the form of the patriarchal life?
Another family system presents itself, the clan, a small society, the type of which we must seek for in Scotland, and Ireland, and through which a great portion of the European world bas probably passed. This is no longer the patriarchal family. There is a great difference here between the situation of the chief and that of the rest of the population; he did not even lead the same life; the greater part tilled and served; he was idle, and a warrior. But their origin was the same; they all bore the same name; the ties of kindred, ancient traditions, mutual reminiscences, similar affections established between all the members of a clan a moral bond, a kind of equality,
These are the two principal types of the family life with which history furnishes us. Is this then, the feudal family? Evidently not. It seems, at first, to have some affinity with the clan, but the difference is greater than the resemblance. The population which surrounded the holder of a fief was entirely unconnected with him ; they did not bear his name ; between them and him there was no affinity, no bond either historical or moral. Neither was it the same as the patriarchal family. The possessor of a fief did not lead the same life, did not engage in the same occupations as those who surrounded him; he was idle and a warrior, whilst the others were labourers. The feudal family was not numerous ; it was not a tribe ; it confined itself to the family, properly so called, the wife and children
; they lived apart from the rest of the population, in the interior of the castle. The colonists and serfs had no part with them; their origin was different, the inequality in their position was prodigious. Five or six individuals, in a situation at once superior and estranged from the rest, composed the feudal family. It must obviously have been invested with a peculiar character. It was narrow, concentrated, constantly on the defensive, constantly forced to distrust, or, at least, to avoid, even its retainers. Domestic life would, of course, become of great importance. I am aware that the brutality of the passions, and the custom for the chief to spend his time in war or the chase, were great obstacles to the development of the domestic life. But this obstacle would be overcome; the chief necessarily returned habitually to his home; he always found there his wife and children, and few besides them; they would remain his only permarent society; with them alone he would share his interests, his fate. It was impossible that domestio existence should not acquire great influence. Proofs of this abound. Was it not in the heart of the feudal family that the importance of women was developed ? In all ancient societies, I do not speak of those in which the family spirit did not exist, but of those where it was powerful, in the patriarchal life, for instance, women did not hold nearly so high a place as they acquired in Europe under the feudal system. It was to the development, the preponderance of domestic manners inevitable in feudalism, that they chiefly owed this change, this advance in their position. The cause of this has been sought in the peculiar manners of the ancient Germans, in the national respect which, in the midst of their forests, they are said to have borne towards women. German patriotism has founded on a sentence of Tacitus I know not what superiority, what primitive and ineffaceable purity of manners, in the relation of the two sexes in the German race. Mere fancies. Sentences similar to that of Tacitus, sentiments and customs like those of the ancient Germans are found in the recitals of numbers of observers of savage and barbarous nations. There is nothing
primitive in it, nothing peculiar to one race. It was in the effects of a strongly determined social system, in the progress, in the preponderance of domestic lifo that the importance of women in Europe originated ; and the preponderance of the domestic life became, very early, an essential feature of the feudal system.
A second fact, a fresh proof of tho empire of the domestic life, equally characterises the feudal family : this is the spirit of inheritance, of perpetuation, which was evidently all-powerful. The spirit of hereditary right is inherent in the family spirit; but it has nowhere been so fully developed as in feudalism. This proceeded from the nature of the property with which the family was incorporated. The fief was not like any other property ; it constantly needed a possessor who could defend it, work for it, acquit himself of the obligations inherited with the domain, and thus maintain it in its rank in the general association of the masters of the country. From this sprang a kind of identity between the actual possessor of the fief and the fief itself, and all the generations of its future possessors.
This circumstanco contributed greatly to strengthen and draw closer the family ties, already rendered so powerful by the nature of the feudal family.
61.-THE FEUDAL SYSTEM.-II.
Guizot. I now leave the seignorial dwelling, and descend amongst the little population that surrounds it. Here, everything has a different aspect. The nature of man is so good, so fertilizing, that when a social position has lasted for some time, it establishes between those who are connected by it, whatever may be conditions of the connexion, a kind of moral bond, sentiments of protection, benevolence, and affection. TL it was in feudalism. No doubt, in the course of time there may have sprung up some moral relations, some habits of affection, between the colonists and the possessor of the fief. But this must have happened in spite of their relative position, not from its influence. Considered in itself, the position was radically bad. There was nothing morally common between the possessor of the fief and the colonists; they were part of his domain, they were his property; and under this word property are comprised all the rights which we now call rights of public sovereignty, as well as the rights of private property, the right of imposing laws, taxes, and punishments, as well as that of disposing of, and selling. As far as this can be said of the relative position of man to man in any case, there were between the lord and the cultivators of his domains, no rights, no guarantees, no society. This
was, I fancy, the cause of that truly intense and invincible hatred with which the people have, at all times, regarded the feudal system, the remembrance of it, its very name. It is not an unexampled case for men to submit to oppressive despotisms, and become accustomed to them, even so far as almost to prefer them. Theocratic and monarchical despotism have more than once obtained the approbation, almost the affection of the population submitted to them. . Feudal despotism has always been repulsive, odious; it has oppressed the destinies, but never reigned over the souls of men. The reason is, that in the theocracy and the monarchy, the power is exercised in virtue of certain persuasions common to the master, and to the subjects ; it is the representative, the minister of another power, superior to all human powers; it speaks and acts in the name of the Divinity, or of a general idea, not in the name of ınan himself, of man alone. Feudal despotism is quite another thing; it is the power of an individual over an individual, the dominion of the personal and capricious will of a man. It is, perhaps, the only tyranny, which, to his eternal honour, man will never consent to accept. Whenever he sees in his