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by the tendency of the human mind, and the yond all doubt the overthrow of Rome by the tide, either of flow or ebb, by which human Goths was the most momentous catastrophe affairs were at the time wafted to and fro. The which has occurred on the earth since the dedesperate struggles of war or of ambition in luge; yet, if we examine either the historians which they were engaged, and in which so of antiquity or the earliest of modern times, much genius and capacity were exerted, are we find it wholly impossible to understand to swept over by the flood of time, and seldom what cause so great a catastrophe had been leave any lasting trace behind. It is the men owing. What gave, in the third and fourth who determine the direction of this tide, who centuries, so prodigious an impulse to the imprint their character on general thought, northern nations, and enabled them, after bewho are the real directors of human affairs; it ing so long repelled by the arms of Rome, is the giants of thought who, in the end, go- finally to prevail over it? What, still more, vern the world. Kings and ministers, princes so completely paralyzed the strength of the and generals, warriors and legislators, are but empire during that period, and produced that the ministers of their blessings or their curses astonishing weakness in the ancient conqueto mankind. But their dominion seldom begins rors of the world, which rendered them the till themselves are mouldering in their graves. easy prey of those whom they had so often
Guizot's largest work, in point of size, is subdued? The ancient writers content themhis translation of Gibbon's Rome; and the just selves with saying, that the people became and philosophic spirit in which he viewed the corrupted; that they lost their military coucourse of human affairs, was admirably cal. rage; that the recruiting of the legions, in the culated to provide an antidote to the skeptical free inhabitants of the empire, became imsneers which, in a writer of such genius and possible; and that the semi-barbarous tribes strength of understanding, are at once the on the frontier could not be relied on to upmarvel and the disgrace of that immortal hold its fortunes. But a very little reflection work. He has beguns also a history of the must be sufficient to show that there must English Revolution, to which he was led by have been much more in it than this, before a having been the editor of a valuable collec- race of conquerors was converted into one of tion of Memoirs relating to the great Rebellion, slaves; before the legions fled before the bartranslated into French, in twenty-five volumes. barians, and the strength of the civilized was But this work only got the length of two vo- overthrown by the energy of the savage world. lumes, and came no further down than the For what prevented a revenue from being death of Charles I., an epoch no further on in raised in the third or fourth, as well as the the English than the execution of Louis in the first or second centuries ? Corruption in its French Revolution. This history is clear, worst form had doubtless pervaded the higher sucid, and valuable; but it is written with ranks in Rome from the emperor downward; little eloquence, and has met with no great but these vices are the faults of the exalted success: the author's powers were not of the and the affluent only; they never have, and dramatic, or pictorial kind necessary to paint never will, extend generally to the great body that dreadful story. These were editorial or of the community; for this plain reason, that industrial labours unworthy of Guizot's mind; they are not rich enough to purchase them. it was when he delivered lectures from the But the remarkable thing is, that in the decline chair of history in Paris, that his genius shone of the empire, it was in the lower ranks that forth in its proper sphere and its true lustre. the greatest and most fatal weakness first ap
His Civilisation en France, in five volumes, peared. Long before the race of the PatriCivilisation Européenne, and Essais sur l'Histoire cians had become extinct, the free cultivators de France, each in one volume, are the fruits had disappeared from the fields. Leaders and of these professional labours. The same pro- generals of the most consummate abilities, of found thought, sagacious discrimination, and the greatest daring, frequently arose; but their lucid view, are conspicuous in them all, but efforts proved in the end ineffectual, from the they possess different degrees of interest to the impossibility of finding a sturdy race of fol. English reader. The Civilisation en France is lowers to fill their ranks. The legionary Italian the groundwork of the whole, and it enters at soldier was awanting-his place was imper. large into the whole details, historical, legal, fectly supplied by the rude Dacian, the hardy and antiquarian, essential for its illustration, German, the faithless Goth. So completely and the proof of the various propositions were the inhabitants of the provinces within which it contains. In the Civilisation Euro- the Rhine and the Danube paralyzed, that they péenne and Essays on the History of France, how- ceased to make any resistance to the hordes ever, the general results are given with equal of invaders; and the fortunes of the empire clearness and greater brevity. We do not were, for several generations, sustained solely hesitate to say, that they appear to us to throw by the heroic efforts of individual leadersma more light on the history of society in modern Belisarius, Narses, Julian, Aurelian, ConstanEurope, and the general progress of mankind, tine, and many others-whose renown, though from the exertions of its inhabitants, than any it could not rouse the pacific inhabitants to other works in existence; and it is of them, warlike efforts, yet attracted military adven especially the first, that we propose to give our turers from all parts of the world to their readers some, account.
standard. Now, what weakened and destroyed The most important event which ever oc- the rural population? It could not be luxury; curred in the history of mankind, is the one on the contrary, they were suffering under concerning which contemporary writers have excess of poverty, and bent down beneath a given us the least satisfactory accounts. Be- load of taxes, which, in Gaul, in the time of
Constantine, amounted, as Gibbon tells us, to each a dependent territory, all independent of nine pounds sterling on every freeman? What each other, arose the absolute necessity for a was it, then, which occasioned the depopula- central and absolute government. One muni. tion and weakness? This is what behoves us cipality in Rome might conquer the world : to know this it is which ancient history has but to retain it in subjection, and provide for left unknown.
the government of all its multifarious parts, It is here that the vast step in the philosophy was a very different matter. This was one of of history made from ancient to modern times the chief causes of the general adoption of a is apparent. From a few detached hints and strong concentrated government under the eminsulated facts, left by the ancient annalists, pire. Such a centralized despotism not only apparently ignorant of their value, and care- succeeded in restraining and regulating all the less of their preservation, modern industry, incoherent members of the vast dominion, but guided by the light of philosophy, has reared the idea of a central irresistible authority inup the true solution of the difficulty, and re-sinuated itself into men's minds everywhere, vealed the real causes, hidden from the ordi- at the same time, with wonderful facility. At nary gaze, which, even in the midst of its first sight, one is astonished to see, in that greatest prosperity, gradually, but certainly, prodigious and ill-united aggregate of little undermined the strength of the empire. Miche- republics, in that accumulation of separate let, in his Gaule sous les Romains, a most able municipalities, spring up so suddenly an unand interesting work-Thierry, in his Domina- bounded respect for the sacred authority of tion Romaine en Gaule, and his Histoire des Rois | the empire. But the truth is, it had become a Merovingians-Sismondi, in the three first vo- matter of absolute necessity, that the bond lumes of his Histoire des Français-and Guizot, which held together the different parts of this in his Civilisation Européenne, and the first vo- heterogeneous dominion should be very powerlumes of his Essais sur l'Histoire de Francem ful; and this it was which gave it so ready a have applied their great powers to this most in- reception in the minds of men. teresting subject. It may safely be affirmed that “But when the vigour of the central power they have got to the bottom of the subject, and declined during a course of ages, from the preslifted up the veil from one of the darkest, and sure of external warfare, and the weakness of yet most momentous, changes in the history of internal corruption, this necessity was no mankind. Guizot gives the following account longer felt. The capital ceased to be able to of the principal causes which silently under- provide for the provinces; it rather sought promined the strength of the empire, flowing from tection from them. During four centuries, the the peculiar organization of ancient society :- central power of the emperors incessantly
“When Rome extended, what did it do? struggled against this increasing debility ; but Follow its history, and you will find that it the moment at length arrived, when all the was everlastingly engaged in conquering or practised skill of despotism, over the long infounding cities. It was with cities that it souciance of servitude, could no longer keep fought--with cities that it contracted-into together the huge and unwieldy body. In the cities that it sent colonies. The history of the fourth century, we see it at once break up and conquest of the world by Rome, is nothing but disunite; the barbarians entered on all sides the history of the conquest and foundation of from without the provinces ceased to oppose a great number of cities. In the east, the any resistance from within; the cities to evince expansion of the Roman power assumed, from any regard for the general welfare; and, as in the very outset, a somewhat dissimilar cha- the disaster of a shipwreck, every one looked racter; the population was differently distri- out for his individual safety. Thus, on the buted from the west, and much less concen- dissolution of the empire, the same general trated in cities; but in the European world, state of society presented itself as in its cradle. the foundation or conquest of towns was the The imperial authority sunk into the dust, and uniform result of Roman conquest. In Gaul municipal institutions alone survived the disand Spain, in Italy, it was constantly towns aster. This, then, was the chief legacy which which opposed the barrier to Roman domi- the ancient bequeathed to the modern worldnation, and towns which were founded or for it alone survived the storm by which the garrisoned by the legions, or strengthened by former had been destroyed-cities and a mucolonies, to retain them when vanquished in nicipal organization everywhere established. à state of subjection. Great roads stretched But it was not the only legacy. Beside it, there from one town to another; the multitude of was the recollection at least of the awful ma cross roads which now intersect each other in jesty of the emperor-of a distant, unseen, but every direction, was unknown. They had no- sacred and irresistible power. These are the thing in common with that multitude of little two ideas which antiquity bequeathed to momonuments, villages, churches, castles, villas, dern times. On the one hand, the municipal and cottages, which now cover our provinces. régime, its rules, customs, and principles of Rome has bequeathed to us nothing, either in liberty: on the other, a common, general, civil its capital or its provinces, but the municipal legislation; and the idea of absolute power, of character, which produced immense monuments a sacred majesty, the principle of order and on certain points, destined for the use of the servitude."--Civilisation Européenne, 20, 23. vast population which was there assembled The causes which produced the extraordiogether.
nary, and at first sight unaccountable, depopu. “From this peculiar conformation of society lation of the country districts, not only in Italy, in Europe, under the Roman dominion, con- but in Gaul, Spain, and all the European prosisting of a vast conglomeration of cities, with / vinces of the Roman empire, are explained by Guizot in his Essays on the History of France, districts; for, as the taxes of each municipality and have been fully demonstrated by Sismondi, remained the same, every one that withdrew Thierry, and Michelet. They were a natural into the towns left an additional burden on the consequence of the municipal system, then shoulders of his brethren who remained behinde universally established as the very basis of So powerful was the operation of these two civilization in the whole Roman empire, and causes—the fixity in the state burdens payable may be seen urging, from a similar cause, the by each municipality, and the constantly deTurkish empire to dissolution at this day, clining prices, owing to the vast import from This was the imposition of a certain fixed agricultural regions more favoured by nature duty, as a burden on each municipality, to be that it fully equalled the effect of the ravages raised, indeed, by its own members, but admit of the barbarians in the frontier provinces ting of no diminution, save under the most exposed to their incursions; and the depopulaspecial circumstances, and on an express ex- tion of the rural districts was as complete in emption by the emperor. Had the great bulk Italy and Gaul, before a barbarian had passed of the people been free, and the empire pros- the Alps or set his foot across the Rhine, as in perous, this fixity of impost would have been the plains between the Alps or the Adriatic and the greatest of all blessings. It is the precise the Danube, which had for long been ravaged boon so frequently and earnestly implored by by their arms. our ryots in India, and indeed by the cultiva- Domestic slavery conspired with these evils tors all over the east. But when the empire to prevent the healing power of nature from was beset on all sides with enemies-only the closing these yawning wounds. Gibbon esti. more rapacious and pressing, that the might mates the number of slaves throughout the of the legions had so long confined them within empire, in its latter days, at a number equal to the comparatively narrow limits of their own that of the freemen; in other words, one half sterile territories-and disasters, frequent and of the whole inhabitants were in a state of serious, were laying waste the frontier pro- servitude ;* and as there were 120,000,000 souls vinces, it became the most dreadful of all under the Roman sway, sixty millions were in scourges; because, as the assessment on each that degraded condition. There is reason to district was fixed, and scarcely ever suffered believe that the number of slaves was still any abatement, every disaster experienced greater than this estimate, and at least double increased the burden on the survivors who that of the freemen; for it is known by an had escaped it; until they became bent down authentic enumeration, that, in the time of the under such a weight of taxation, as, coupled Emperor Claudius, the number of citizens in with the small number of freemen on whom it the empire was only 6,945,000 men, who, with exclusively fell, crushed every attempt at pro- their families, might amount to twenty millions ductive industry. It was the same thing as if of souls; and the total number of freemen was all the farmers on each estate were to be bound about double that of the citizens. In one to make up, annually, the same amount of rent family alone, in the time of Pliny, there were to their landlord, no matter how many of them 4116 slaves. But take the number of slaves had become insolvent. We know how long according to Gibbon's computation, at only the agriculture of Britain, in a period of de- half the entire population, what a prodigious clining prices and frequent disaster, would abstraction must this multitude of slaves have exist under such a system.
made from the physical and moral strength of Add to this the necessary effect which the the empire! Half the people requiring food, free circulation of grain throughout the whole needing restraint, incapable of trust, and yet Roman world had in depressing the agricul- adding nothing to the muster-roll of the legions, ture of Italy, Gaul, and Greece. They were or the persons by whom the fixed and immovunable to withstand the competition of Egypt, able annual taxes were to be made good! In Lybia, and Sicily--the store-houses of the what state would the British empire now be, world; where the benignity of the climate, and if we were subjected to the action of similar the riches of the soil, rewarded seventy or an causes of ruin? A vast and unwieldy domihundred-fold the labours of the husbandman. nion, exposed on every side to the incursions Gaul, where the increase was only seven-fold of barbarous and hostile nations, daily increasItaly, where it seldom exceeded twelve-ing in numbers, and augmenting in military. Spain, where it was never so high, were skill; a fixed taxation, for which the whole crushed in the struggle. The mistress of the free inhabitants of every municipality were world, as Tacitus bewails, had come to depend jointly and severally responsible, to meet the for her subsistence on the foods of the Nile. increasing military establishment required by Unable to compete with the cheap grain raised these perils; a declining, and at length extinct, in the more favoured regions of the south, the agriculture in the central provinces of the emcultivators of Italy and Gaul gradually retired pire, owing to the deluge of cheap grain from from the contest. They devoted their exten- its fertile extremities wafted over the waters sive estates to pasturage, because live cattle or of the Mediterranean; multitudes of turbulent dairy produce could not bear the expense of freemen in cities, kept quiet by daily distribubeing shipped from Africa; and the race of tion of provisions at the public expense, from agriculturists, the strength of the legions, dis- the imperial granaries; and a half
, or twoappeared in the fields, and was lost in the thirds of the whole population in a state of needy and indolent crowd of urban citizens, in slavery--neither bearing any share of the pubpart maintained by tributes in corn brought lic burdens, nor adding to the strength of the from Egypt and Lybia. This augmented the burdens upon those who remained in the rural
of Ibid. | Plin. Hist. Nat. xxxii. 47
military array of the empire. Such are the the republics of Italy, as well as in simpla discoveries of modern philosophy, as to the monarchies. It is a character diffused through causes of the decline and ultimate fall of the the various elements of modern civilization, Roman empire, gleaned from a few facts, acci- and the perception of which is indispensable dentally preserved by the ancient writers, ap- to the right understanding of its history.” parently unconscious of their value! It is a Lecture iii
. 9, 11; Civilisation Européenne. noble science which, in so short a time, has No principle ever was announced of more presented such a gift to mankind.
practical importance in legislating for manGuizot has announced, and ably illustrated, kind, than is contained in this passage. The a great truth, which, when traced to its legiti- doctrine is somewhat obscurely stated, and mate consequences, will be found to go far not with the precision which in general distowards dispelling many of the pernicious in- tinguishes the French writers; but the import novating dogmas which have so long been of it seems to be this-- That no system of goafloat in the world. It is this, that whenever vernment can long exist among men, unless it an institution, though apparently pernicious in is substantially, and in the majority of cases, our eyes, has long existed, and under a great founded in reason and justice, and sanctioned variety of circumstances, we may rest assured by experienced utility for the people among that it in reality has been attended with some whom it exists; and therefore, that we may advantages which counterbalance its evils, and predicate with perfect certainty of any instituthat upon the whole it is beneficial in its tion which has been generally extended and tendency. This important principle is thus long established, that it has been upon the stated :
whole beneficial, and should be modified or “Independent of the efforts of man, there is altered with a very cautious hand. That this established Iv a law of providence, which it is proposition is true, will probably be disputed impossible to mistake, and which is analogous by none who have ihought much and disto what we witness in the natural world, a passionately on human affairs; for all human certain measure of order, reason, and justice, institutions are formed and supported by men, without which society cannot exist. From the and unless men had some reason for supportsingle fact of its endurance we may conclude, ing them, they would speedily sink to the with certainty, that a society is not completely ground. It is in vain to say a privileged class absurd, insensate, or iniquitous; that it is not have got possession of the power, and they destitute of the elements of reason, truth, and make use of it to perpetuate these abuses. justice-which alone can give life to society. Doubtless, they are always sufficiently inclined If the more that society developes itself, the to do so; but a privileged class, or a despot, is stronger does this principle become--if it is always a mere handful against the great body daily accepted by a greater number of men, it of the people; and unless their power is supis a certain proof that in the lapse of time ported by the force of general opinion, founded there has been progressively introduced into on experienced utility upon the whole, it could it more reason, more justice, more right. It is not maintain its ground a single week. And thus that the idea of political legitimacy has this explains a fact observed by an able and arisen.
ingenious writer of the present day,* that if “ This principle has for its foundation, in almost all the great convulsions recorded in the first instance, at least in a certain degree, history are attentively considered, it will be the great principles of moral legitimacy-found, that after a brief period of strenuous, justice, reason, truth. Then came the sanction and often almost super-human effort, on the of time, which always begets the presumption part of the people, they have terminated in the of reason having directed arrangements which establishment of a government and institutions have long endured. In the early periods of differing scarcely, except in name, from that society, we too often find force and falsehood which had preceded the struggle. It is hardly ruling the cradles of royalty, aristocracy, de necessary to remark how striking a confirmamocracy, and even the church; but every tion the English revolution of 1688, and the where you will see this force and falsehood French of 1830, afford of this truth. yielding to the reforming hand of time, and
And this explains what is the true meaning right and truth taking their place in the rulers of, and solid foundation for, that reverence for of civilization. It is this progressive infusion antiquity which is so strongly implanted in huof right and truth which has by degrees de- man nature, and is never forgotten for any conveloped the idea of political legitimacy; it is siderable time without inducing the most dreadthus that it has become established in modern ful disasters upon society. It means that those civilization. At different times, indeed, at- institutions which have descended to us in actual tempts have been made to substitute for this practice from our ancestors, come sanctioned idea the banner of despotic power; but, in by the experience of ages; and that they could doing so, they have turned it aside from its not have stood so long a test unless they had true origin. It is so little the banner of des- been recommended, in some degree at least, potic power, that it is in the name of right by their utility. It is not that our ancestors and justice that it has overspread the world. were wiser than we are; they were certainly As little is it exclusive: it belongs neither to less informed, and probably were, ca that acpersons, classes, nor sects; it arises wherever count, in the general case, less judicious. But the idea of right has developed itself. We time has swept away their follies, which were shall meet with this principle in systems the doubtless great enough, as it has done the mosi opposite : in the feudal system, in the municipalities of Flanders and Germany, in * Mr. JAMES's Preface to Mary of Burgundy.
worthless ephemeral literature with which they, tions and moral feelings, established amidst as we, were overwhelmed; and nothing has that deluge of physical force and selfish viostood the test of ages, and come down to us lence which overwhelmed society at that pe through a series of generations, of their ideas riod. Had the Christian church not existed, or institutions, but what had some utility in the world would have been delivered over to human feelings and necessities, and was on the influence of physical strength, in its the whole expedient at the time when it arose. coarsest and most revolting_form. It alone Its utility may have ceased by the change of exercised a moral power. It did more; it manners or of the circumstances of society spread abroad the idea of a rule of obedience, modifying or alte, Sood reason for cautiously a heavenly power, to which all human beings, modifying or altering it—but rely upon it, it how great soever, were subjected, and which was once useful, if it has existed long; and was above all human laws. That of itself was the presumption of present and continuing a safeguard against the greatest evils of society; utility, requires to be strongly outweighed by for it affected the minds of those by whom forcible considerations before it is abandoned. they were brought about; it professed that beLord Bacon has told us, in words which can lief--the foundation of the salvation of hunever become trite, so profound is their wis-manity—that there is above all existing instidom, that our changes, to be beneficial, should tutions, superior to all human laws, a permaresemble those of time, which, though the nent and divine law, sometimes called Reason, greatest of all innovators, works out its altera- sometimes Divine Command, but which, under tions so gradually. that they are never per- whatever name it goes, is for ever the same. ceived. Guizot makes, in the same spirit, the “ Then the church commenced a great work following fine observation on the slow march the separation of the spiritual and temporal of Supreme wisdom in the government of the power. That separation is the origin of liworld
berty of conscience; it rests on no other prin“If we turn our eyes to history, we shall ciple than that which lies at the bottom of the find that all the great developments of the hu- widest and most extended toleration. The seman mind have turned to the advantage of paration of the spiritual and temporal power society -all the great struggles of humanity rests on the principle, that physical force is to the good of mankind. It is not, indeed, im- neither entitled to act, nor can ever have any mediately that these efforts take place; ages lasting influence, on thoughts, conviction, truth; often elapse, a thousand obstacles intervene, it flows from the eternal distinction between before they are fully developed, but when we the world of thought and the world of action, survey a long course of ages, we see that all the world of interior conviction and that of has been accomplished. The march of Provi- external facts. In truth that principle of the dence is not subjected to narrow limits; it liberty of conscience, for which Europe has cares not to develope to-day the consequences combated and suffered so much, which has so of a principle which it has established yester- slowly triumphed, and often against the utday; it will bring them forth in ages, when the most efforts of the clergy themselves, was first appointed hour has arrived; and its course is founded by the doctrine of the separation of not the less sure that it is slow. The throne of the temporal and spiritual power, in the cradle the Almighty rests on time-it marches through of European civilization. It is the Christian its boundless expanse as the gods of Homer church which, by the necessities of its situathrough space-it makes a step, and ages have tion to defend itself against the assaults of barpassed away. How many centuries elapsed, barism, introduced and maintained it. The how many changes ensued, before the regenera- presence of a moral influence, the maintetion of the inner man, by means of Christianity, nance of a Divine law, the separation of the exercised on the social state its great and temporal and spiritual power, are the three salutary influence! Neverthcless, it has at great blessings which the Christian church has length succeeded. No one can mistake its diffused in the dark ages over European so. effects at this time.”Lecture i. 24.
ciety. In surveying the progress of civilization in « The influence of the Christian church was modern, as compared with ancient times, two great and beneficent for another reason. The features stand prominent as distinguishing the bishop and clergy ere long became the princione from the other. These are the church and pal municipal mägistrates: they were the the feudal system. They were precisely the cir- chancellors and ministers of kings--the rulers, cumstances which gave umbrage to the phi- except in the camp and the field, of mankind. losophers of the eighteenth century, and which When the Roman empire crumbled into dust, awakened the greatest transports of indigna- when the central power of the emperors and tion among the ardent multitudes who, åt its the legions disappeared, there remained, we close, brought about the French Revolution. have seen, no other authority in the state but Very different is the light in which the eye of the municipal functionaries. But they them true philosophy, enlightened by the experi- selves had fallen into a state of apathy and ence of their abolition, views these great dis- despair; the heavy burdens of despotism, the tinctive features of modern society.
oppressive taxes of the municipalities, the in“Immense,” says Guizot, “was the influence cursions of the fierce barbarians, had reduced which the Christian church exercised over the them to despair.. No protection to society, no civilization of modern Europe. In the outset, revival of industry, no shielding of innocence, it was an incalculable advantage to have a could be expected from their exertions. The moral power, a power destitute of physical clergy, again, formed a society within itself; force, which reposed only on mental convic- fresh, young, vigorous, sheltered by the pro