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of its subjects, if it is obliged to use all its resources solely for the preservation of its own existence? The people themselves, by demanding political instead of administrative changes, by seeking the destruction of the government instead of loyally coöperating with it for the public good, create the necessity for those repressive measures of which they complain, and which become to them new motives for the change they seek or threaten.
We certainly have no admiration for that centralized monarchical system of government which sprang up in Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, which culminated in Louis XIV. of France, but which has lingered on as the dominant régime to our own times. Under it the European populations have suffered immense evils, and have received comparatively few of the benefits which it is the purpose of the state to secure for all her subjects, whatever their rank or condition in life. But whence came that system? Was it due solely to the ambition of the kings themselves? And after its establishment, was it the wisest course for the people to seek to exchange it for democracy? Let us dwell for a few moments on these questions.
Europe, after the destruction of the Roman empire, was gradually reorganized on the feudal principle, under the moderatorship of the church. The constituent elements of the state were the king, the barons, the clergy, and the communes, or free cities. The mutual relations of nations, of estates, and of princes and their subjects, were placed under the safeguard of the papacy, which, as having the special interests of none, but the good of all, in view, was, even humanly considered, naturally an impartial judge, and a wise and just moderator. Such, in a word, was the feudai system, and, theoretically considered, perhaps as perfect a political systein as the world has ever witnessed or ever will witness. But, unhappily for its satisfactory practical workings, the populations placed under it, and the kings and barons constituent elements of it. personally retained no small share of the barbarism into which all Europe, except the church, was plunged by the destruction of the Roman empire and its civilization. The barbarians who invaded and overthrew the empire were gradually converted, indeed, and they received from the church, with the faith, the germs of her generous and noble civilization ; but they for a long time retained but too many traces of their old barbaric habits and dispositions. To overcome these, and bring the populations into personal conformity to Christian civilization, demanded generations of peaceful and continued training. The church labored for it with supernatural energy and astonishing success; but her labors were repeatedly interrupted by the invasion of new hordes of barbarians and infidels, which continued, with brief intervals, till the eleventh century. The Huns in the East and the centre, the Saracens in the Sonth and Southwest, the Saxons in Germany, the Danes in England and Ireland, the Normans in France and parts of Italy, prove to the historical reader how long pagan and infidel barbarians continued to invade Christian Europe, and how often the labors of the church were broken off, how frequently the slow gains of years were destroyed in a moment, and she was compelled to begin her work of civilization anew. The Saxons were not converted till the ninth century; the Prussians, Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, were pagans in the eleventh century, and the greater part of them in the twelfth. The Saracenic power was not fairly checked till the invasion of Asia by the crusaders, nor broken till the celebrated battle of Lepanto, in the sixteenth century.
These facts should lead us to expect in the fendal ages no little of unredeemed barbarism alongside of the generons and noble forms of Christian civilization, as the grotesque in juxtaposition with the beautiful; and we, in fact, do find in then the most wonderful developments of intellectual and moral energy, miracles of Christian meekness, gentleness, love, manifesting themselves in all their sublime beauty in the cathedrals, the public worship, the religious and charitable establishinents, and the piety, fervor, and devotedness of individuals of all ranks, from the prince to the peasant, along with an unmitigated personal barbarism that an Attila, an Alaric, a Genseric, a Caled, a Ralph the Ganger, would not have disdained. The huge form of the barbarian was oftener revealed than concealed by the ample folds of the toga. The tiger from the forest or the jungle was but half domesticated, and resumed all his native ferocity at the first lap of blood. Throughout are the feudal ages marked by liuge disproportions, by the sublimest virtues and the darkest crimes, the most winning gentleness and the most brutal violence; Christian charity in all its supernatural beauty, and savage humanity in all its hideous deformity, brought together in fearful contrast and mortal combat. On their Christian side, we cannot exaggerate their merit; on their barbaric side, it is hard to say too much against them.
But this barbarism, which disfigured the feudal ages, and which no admirer of feudalism denies or palliates, was not inherent in the system itself. It did not grow out of feudalism, for the tribes possessed it before they came under the influence of that political order; it did not spring from the church, because they possessed it prior to their conversion; it did not spring from both united, for the saine reason, and because it yielded in time to their joint action and influence. It was, therefore, not in the political and ecclesiastical order of the fendal ages, but in the people not as yet brought into harmony with Christianity. The barbarism was in the persons, not in the order. So every one who is able to discriminate and is willing to be just knows, admits, or contends. But the northern nations converted, the Saracens held in check by the crusaders, the church found herself in comparative peace. She resumed and continued her civilizing labors, and by the end of the fourteenth century succeeded in bringing the European populations very generally into comparative harmony with her own civilization. But just at this period, when the ecclesiastical and political order of the feudal times had overcome its chief obstacles, when it had so humanized the persons as to make them see and blush at their former barbarism, the people with their usual discrimination turned round and charged that barbarism to the very order which had so long struggled against it, and which had in good measure delivered them from it. Did not that barbarism for centuries coexist with feudalism and Catholicity? Certainly it did. Then feudalism and Catholicity caused it, and are responsible for it. Then down with Catholicity and feudalism! So began the people to reason, with their characteristic logic, in the fifteenth century, and aided in the sixteenth by the Lutheran insurrection, they were able to strike a death-blow at feudalism, and would have done the same to Catholicity, had she not been immortal.
The mistake of the people in confounding with the feudal order the personal barbarism which, in feudal times, existed under it, or rather in spite of it, led to the destruction of feudalism. Feudalisin destroyed, centralism necessarily followed. All power was concentrated in the hands of the monarchy,--the principle of oriental despotisın. The people, at the time, had no fear of the royal tyranny and oppression.
Between them and the king had stood the barons and the prelates, who had felt the principal weight of royal violence, and from whom the people in turn had suffered the grievances, real or imaginary, they complained of. Their resentments were against these, and not against the king. The barons oppress us, and the prelates do not restrain them. Down, then, with them both, and oppression will cease, all our wrongs will be righted, and we shall be happy, live in clover, under our father the king! Unsupported, but opposed, by the people, the barons could make only a feeble resistance, and feudalism, after a comparatively short struggle, was obliged to succuinb to centralism. The clergy, for the same reason, were unable to maintain their independence, and the church became enslaved to the temporal power, -in Russia by schism; in England, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, by heresy; in France, and finally in Austria, Spain, and Portugal, by practical Gallicanism. There was then no longer any intermediate power between the king and the people, and the people found, when it was too late, that they had exchanged feudalism for despotism, the rods of Solomon for the scorpions of his son.
It is remarkable, how, after the reformation, every thing conspired to enlarge and render absolute the monarchy, which in the original reorganization of Europe had been only one element out of four. In Protestant countries monarchy was extolled, because it was the bulwark of heresy. In Catholic countries, for a time, it was opposed, and the old doctrines of liberty were maintained, in the schools and universities. The “divine right of kings” was a Protestant doctrine, and it was against the Catholic Cardinal Duperron that James I. of England wrote his famous Remonstránce in its defence; and hence the first republican reaction against monarchy appears in England, and more than a hundred years before it manifests itself in France. But gradually Catholic kings became ardent defenders of the faith, and even Catholics turned monarchists, and courtly bishops were found to advocate and justify royal absolutism, as a protection against schisin and heresy,-hoping, no doubt, by their spiritual action on the monarch's conscience, to restrain him from abusing his powers,-a sad mistake, for he could banish them at will from court, and deprive them of their revenues.
It was not wholly the fault of the kings that feudalism became converted into centralism, and the estates succumbed
to the despot. It was still more the fault of the people, who, when they had emerged from barbarism, and at the very moment when the political and ecclesiastic order, by means of which they luad emerged, could begin to operate, free from the causes which previously disturbed it, rejected it on account of the barbarism which had been accidentally connected with it, and wished for a different constitution of the state. If the people had resisted, or not been ready to assent, the kings could never have suppressed the barons, enslaved the church, and monopolized all power in their own hands. They succeeded, not in spite of the people, but by their coöperation; and the people, if disappointed, had themselves principally to blame. Whatever the faults or defects of modern centralism, there can be no doubt that it was popular in its origin, and had, if not the formal, at least the virtual, assent of the European populations.
That the people should have been dissatisfied with this new system is nothing strange. They had in their folly and madness thrown off the best, and obtained the worst, of all possible systems of government, and, of course, must have found themselves in no enviable condition. But were they wise in opposing the government of their own choice, and in seeking to replace it by democracy?
To go back to feudalism with its barbarism was out of the question; to go back to it even without its barbarism was impracticable. Restorations are rarely successful, even when the order restored, in itself considered, is better than any other order likely to be obtained. Feudalism, if it had continued, if it existed now, with our advanced personal civilization and refinement, would, in our judgment, be the perfection of government. But having been thrown off, and the ideas of the people all turned against it, its restoration is impracticable and undesirable. With its evils we must give up its good, unless we can secure it by some other inethod. We blame not, therefore, the people for not going back, or attempting to go back, to feudalism, when they found their new system fail. But had they no alternative but either to remain slaves to monarchical centralism, or to try the experiment of democracy?
The new order established was, briefly characterized, the king on the one side, and the mob on the other. The local organizations which limited and tempered the general sovereignty were swept away, and the people, outside of the monarchy, had no organization, and therefore were not a