« EdellinenJatka »
ruler, a mere man, when the will which oppresses him is only a human will, individual as his own, he is offended, and endures the yoke with indignation. Such was the true, distinctive character of the feudal power; and such is the origin of the antipathy which it never ceased to inspire.
The religious element which was associated with it was little calculated to lighten the burden. I do not fancy that the influence of the priest was much, in the little society which I have described, nor that he was very successful in legitimating the connection between the inferior population and its lord. The church has exercised a very great influence over European civilization, but this it has done by proceeding in a general manner, by changing the general dispositions of mankind. When we examine closely into the little feudal society, properly so called, we find the influence of the priest between the lord and the colonists to be hardly anything. Most frequently he was himself as rough and inferior as a serf, and very little able, either by situation or disposition, to oppose the arrogance of the lord. No doubt, as he was only called upon to sustain and develope some moral life in the inferior population, he was dear and useful to them on this account, and he probably diffused something of consolation and life; but he could do, and did, I conceive, very little for their fortune.
I have examined the elementary feudal society ; I have placed before you the principal conseqnences which might accrue from it, either to the possessor of the fief himself, to his family, or to the population congregated around him. Let us now leave these narrow bounds. The population of the fief was not confined to the territory, there were other societies, analogous or different, to which it bore relation. What influence did this general society to which it belonged exercise over civilization ?
I will make a short observation before replying : it is true that both the possessor of the fief and the priest belonged to a general society, they had, at a distance, numerous relations. It was not the same with the colonists, and serfs : every time that, to designate the rural population, at this period, we employ a general word, which seems to imply one and the same society, the word people, for example, we speak untruly. There was for this population no general society ; its existence was entirely local. Beyond the territory which they inhabited the colonists had no connexion with any one, were neither bound to any one, or to anything. There was for them no common destiny, no common country; they did not form a people. When we speak of the feudal association as a whole, it is the possessors of fiefs only that are concerned.
Let us see what were the relations of the petty feudal society with the general society with which it was connected, and what consequences these relations would probably have on the development of civilization.
You know what ties bound the possessors of fiefs among themselves, what relations were attached to their property, what were the obligations of service on the one part, and protection on the other. I shall not enter into the details of these obligations, it is enough that you have a general idea of them. From them there was necessarily implanted in the mind of each possessor of a fief a certain number of moral ideas and sentiments, ideas of duty, sentiments of affection. It is obvious that the principle of fidelity, of devotion, of loyalty to engagements, and all the sentiments connected with these, must have been developed and maintained by the relations of the possessors of fiefs among themselves.
These obligations, duties and sentiments, endeavoured to convert themselves into rights and institutions. Every one knows that feudalism desired to regulate by law the extent of the services due from the possessor of the fief to his suzerain ; what were the services he might expect in return; in what cases the vassal
owed military or pecuniary aid to his suzerain ; in what form the suzerain ought to obtain the consent of his vassals for services to which they were not bound by the simple possession of their fief. Attempts were made to place all these rights under the guarantee of institutions the object of which was to ensure respect towards them. Thus, the seignorial jurisdictions were to dispense justice between the possessors of fiefs, upon claims carried before their common suzerain. Thus, every lord of any importance assembled his vassals in parliament, to treat with them on matters which required their consent or concurrence. There were, in short, a collection of political, judicia!, and military powers, by which they attempted to organise the feudal system, to convert the relations of the possessors of fiefs into rights and institutions. But these rights and institutions had no reality, no guarantee.
If we inquire what is the nature of a guarantee, a political guarantee, we arrive at the perception that its fundamental character is the constant presence, in the midst of the society, of a will, a power with the inclination and the ability to impose a law upon individual wills and powers, to make them observe the common rule, and respect the general right.
There are only two possible systems of political guarantees : there must either be a particular will, and power, so superior to all others, that none can resist it, and that all are compelled to submit to it, as soon as it interferes ; or else a public power, and will, the result of the concurrence and development of individual wills, which must likewise be in a condition, when it has issued from them, to rule over and obtain respect from all.
Such are the only two possible systems of political guarantees : the despotism of an individual, or of a body, or free government. When we review all systems, we find that they are all included under one or other of these.
Well, neither one por the other existed, or could exist, under the feudal system.
Doubtless, the possessors of fiefs were not all equal among themselves; there were many more powerful than the rest, and many powerful enough to oppress the șeaker. But there was not one, to begin with the highest suzerain, the king, who was in a condition to impose law on all the others, in a condition to compel obedience. Observe that all permanent means of power and action were wanting: there were no permanent troops, no permanent taxes, no permanent tribunals. The social powers and institutions were, in some sort, obliged to recommence, to be recreated each time they were needed. It was necessary to organise a tribunal for every process, an army for every war, a revenue whenever there was need of money; every thing was occasional, accidental, special; there was no means of central, permanent, independent government. It is clear that, in such a system, no individual was capable of imposing his will on others, or of causing the general right to be respected by all.
On the other hand, resistance was as easy as repression was difficult. Shut up in his castle, having to do with a small number of enemies, easily finding, among the vassals situated in the same way as himself, means of coalition, and of assistance, the possessor of a fief had every facility for defending himself.
Thus then the first system of political guarantees, the system which places them under the intervention of the most powerful, is proved to be impossible in feudalism.
The other system, that of free government, of a public power, was equally impracticable ; it could never have arisen in the midst of feudalism. The reason is simple. When we speak, in the present day, of a public power, of what we call the rights of sovereignty, the right of imposing laws, taxes, and punishments, we all know, and think, that these rights belong to no iudividual, that no one has, on his
own account, the right to punish others, to impose on them a burden, or a law. These are rights that pertain only to society in general, which are exercised in its name, which it holds, not of itself, but of the most High. Thus, when an individual comes before the power which is invested with these rights, the sentiment which moves him, perhaps unconsciously, is that he is in the presence of a public, legitimate authority, which has a mission to command him, and he is in a manner submissive, naturally and involuntarily. It was quite otherwise in feudalism. The possessor of the fief was invested with all the rights of sovereignty in his domain, and over the men that occupied it; they were inherent to the domain, and formed part of his private property. What we now call public rights, were then private rights; what are now public powers, were then private powers. When a holder of a fief, after having exercised sovereignty in his own name, as proprietor, over all the population among whom he lived, went to an assembly, to a parliament held in the presence of his suzerain, a parliament not at all numerous, generally composed of his equals, or nearly so, he neither carried there, nor brought away with him, an idea of public power. Such an idea was a contradiction to his whole existence, to all his acts in his domains. He only saw there men invested with the same rights and in the same situation as himself, acting as he did, in virtue of their personal will. Nothing led or obliged him to recognise, in the highest department of the government, in the institutions which we call public, that character of superiority and generosity, įnherent to the idea which we form of political powers. And if he was discontented with the decision made there, he refused to concur in it, or appealed to force to resist it.
Force was, under the feudal system, the true and habitual guarantee of right, if we may call force a guarantee. All rights appealed unceasingly to force to ensure their being recognised and respected. No institution succeeded in doing this. This was so much felt, that institutions were never applied to. If the seignorial courts, and parliaments of vassals had been in a condition to act, we should meet with them in history more frequently than we do ; their rarity proves their uselessness.
62.--ACCESSION OF HENRY II.
HUME. The extensive confederacies, by which the European potentates are now at once united and set in opposition to each other, and which, though they are apt to diffuse the least spark of dissepsion throughout the whole, are at least attended with this advantage, that they prevent any violent revolutions or conquests in particular states, were totally unknown in ancient ages; and the theory of foreign politics in each kingdom formed a speculation much less complicated and involved than at present. Commerce had not yet bound together the most distant nations in so close a chain : wars, finished in one campaign, and often in one battle, were little affected by the movements of remote states. The imperfect communication among the kingdoms, and their ignorance of each others situation, made it impracticable for a great number of them to combine in one project or effort : and above all, the turbulent spirit and independent situation of the barons or great vassals in each state gave so much occupation to the sovereign, that he was obliged to confine his attention chiefly to his own state and his own system of government, and was more indifferent about what passed among his neighbours. Religion alone, not politics, carried abroad the views of princes, while it either fixed their thoughts on the Holy land, whose conquest and defence was deemed a point of common honour and interest, or engaged them in intrigues with the Roman pontiff, to whom they had
yielded the direction of ecclesiastical affairs, and who was every day assuming more authority than they were willing to allow him.
Before the conquest of England by the duke of Normandy, this island was as much separated from the rest of the world in politics as in situation ; and except from the inroads of the Danish pirates, the English, happily confined at home, had neither enemies por allies on the continent. The foreign dominions of William connected them with the king and great vassals of France ; and while the opposite pretensions of the pope and emperor in Italy, produced a continual intercourse between Germany and that country, the two great monarchs of France and England formed, in another part of Europe, a separate system, and carried on their wars and negociations, without meeting either with opposition or support from the others.
On the decline of the Carlovingian race, the nobles in every province of France, taking advantage of the weakness of the sovereign, and obliged to provide each for his own defence, against the ravages of the Norman freebooters, had assumed, both in civil and military affairs, an authority almost independent, and had reduced within very narrow limits the prerogative of their princes. The accession of Hugh Capet, by annexing a great fief to the crown, had brought some addition to the royal dignity ; but this fief, though considerable for a subject, appeared a narrow basis of power for a prince who was placed at the head of so great a community. The royal demesnes consisted only of Paris, Orleans, Estampes, Campaigue, and a few places scattered over the northern provinces. In the rest of the kingdom, the prince's authority was rather nominal than real. The vassals were accustomed, nay entitled, to make war without his permission, on each other. They were even entitled, if they conceived themselves injured, to turn their arms against their sovereign. They exercised all civil jurisdiction, without appeal, over their tenants and inferior vassals. Their common jealousy of the crown easily united them against any attempt on their exorbitant privileges ; and as some of them had attained the power and authority of great princes, even the smallest baron was sure of immediate and effectual protection. Besides six ecclesiastical peerages, which, with the other immunities of the church, cramped extremely the general execution of justice, there were six lay peerages, Burgundy, Normandy, Guienne, Flanders, Toulouse, and Champagne, which formed very extensive and puissant sovereignties. And though the combination of all those princes and barons could, on urgent occasions, muster a mighty power ; yet was it very difficult to set that great machine in movement; it was almost impossible to preserve harmony in its parts; a sense of common interest alone could, for a time, unite them under their sovereign against a common enemy; but if the king attempted to turn the force of the community against any mutinous vassal, the same sense of common interest made the others oppose themselves to the success of his pretensions. Lewis the Gross, the last sovereign, marched at one time to his frontiers against the Germans at the head of an army of two hundred thousand men ; but a petty Lord of Corbeil, of Pinset, of Conci, was able, at another period, to set that prince at defiance, and to maintain open war against him.
The authority of the English monarch was much more extensive within his kingdom, and the disproportion much greater between him and the most powerful of his vassals. His demesnes and revenue were large, compared to the greatness of his state : He was accustomed to levy arbitrary exactions on his subjects : His courts of judicature extended their jurisdiction into every part of the kingdom : He could crush by his power, or by a judicial sentence, well or ill-founded, any obnoxious baron : And though the feudal institutions which prevailed in this kingdom, had the same tendency as in other states, to exalt the aristocracy and distress the monarchy, it required in England, according to its present constitution, a great
combination of the vassals to oppose their sovereign-lord, and there had not hitherto arisen any baron so powerful as of himself to levy war against the prince, and to afford protection to the inferior barons.
While such were the different situations of France and England, and the latter enjoyed so many advantages above the former ; the accession of Henry II., a prince of great abilities, possessed of so many rich provinces on the continent, might appear an event dangerous, if not fatal to the French monarchy, and sufficient to break entirely the balance between the states. He was master, in the right of his fatber, of Anjou and Touraine ; in that of his mother, of Normandy and Maine ; in that of his wife, Guienne, Poictou, Xaintogne, Auvergne, Perigord, Angoumois, the Limousin. He soon after annexed Brittany to his other states, and was already possessed of the superiority over that province, which, on the first cession of Normandy to Rollo the Dane, had been granted by Charles the Simple in vassalage to that formidable ravager. These provinces composed above a third of the ole French monarchy, and were much superior in extent and opulence to those territories which were subjected to the immediate jurisdiction and government of the king. The vassal was here more powerful than the liege lord : The situation which had enabled Hugh Capet to depose the Carlovingian princes seemed to be renewed, and that with much greater advantages on the side of the vassal : And when England was added to so many provinces, the French king had reason to apprehend, from this conjuncture, some great disaster to himself and to his family : But in reality, it was this circumstance, which appeared so formidable that saved the Capetian race.
63.-THE RISE OF THOMAS A BECKET.
C. Mac FARLANE. The most powerful churchman, the most remarkable man of his country or of the times in which he lived—the priest that was strong enough to contend with the powerful, able, and popular Henry II.—was of the Saxon race, a native of the city of London, and the son of a Loudon merchant. The traditionary history of the family and birth of Thomas à Becket is highly romantic and picturesque. His father, Gilbert Becket or Beckie, who was born in London either at the end of the reign of the Conqueror or during the reign of William Rufus, went to the Holy Land during the reign of Henry I. It has been stated, but more upon conjecture than upon any contemporary proof, that he went in the train of some great Norman lord or crusading knight; but it appears to be quite as probable that he was carried to Palestine by his own devotion, and his commercial and enterprising spirit, and that he was a merchant of some substance before he went. Such journeys, undertaken by men of his class, had not been uncommon even in the old Saxon times ; they were rather frequent between the time of the Conquest and the time of the first Crusade, and when the Crusaders had obtained by conquest a firm establishment in Palestine with possession of all the seaports of that country, such journeys certainly became very common. Trade and devotion have often travelled together, and thrived together. In all the countries of the East, a good portion of the pilgrims to the holy places were, and still are, traffickers. The shrines, the holy wells, the fountain-heads of rivers, the sacred islands, whether on the Nile or elsewhere, the holy mounts, and all other places that were reputed holy and attracted pilgrims to them, became either the regular seats of commerce, or the scenes of great annual fairs, for the interchange of commodities, often brought from very distant districts and from countries much varying in soil, production, and manufactures. Perhaps