Eighteen Christian Centuries
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EIGHTEEN CHRISTIAN CENTURIES:
The Evolution Of The Gospel Of Anarchy.
An Essay on the Meaning of History.
By DYER D. LUM.
CENTURIES OF PROGRESS.
The morning dawns! The long dark night of mind,
By priestly art contrived, at last gives way
Before the dawning of the coming day;
Within dark cloister cells, so long confined
With ghostly gyves of creeds revealed that bind
The soul, the intellect has felt the ray
Of dawning light announcing reason’s sway,
And warms with life, though groping yet half blind.
Light! Herald of a newer, brighter age,—
Fifteenth of Christ, yet mankind’s renaissance,—
It warms to life the sculptor’s noble art,
It stirs new thoughts within Columbus’ heart,
It dazzles pope and king from printed page,
And mines the dikes that dam the soul s advance.
With sturdy strength the infant mind of man
Tears off the bands which would its limbs infold,
The sacred bands which have for ages rolled
Its limbs of stunted stature. In the van
Of leadership he takes his place to scan
The tales which once his rising thought cajoled
And loathing turns from pap by dotards doled-
Since first the Christian centuries began—
To fresher founts. The Spirit of the Age
Has whispered freedom from the yoke of creeds,
And earth is dyed where freedom’s martyrs fall:
Yet when the age is past beyond recall,—
Sixteenth of Christ,—appears on progress’ page
First of Free Thought, and won by human deeds.
With garments dyed in floods of crimson hue
By human veins outpoured, Authority
Still wages Caesar’s war on Liberty
In Germany cold Tilly’s ruthless crew
On Luther’s tomb unnumbered victims strew,
While courtly France re-echos Stuart’s cry—
Control o’er thought denied is anarchy!
And State succeeds the Church, hot to pursue
Their common foeman,—Thought. While men record
But royal acts and date of battles fought,
Progress has written with far keener sight
Across the Age in letters fiery bright
The legend Toleration. Of our Lord
Seventeen had passed before free speech was wrought!
To arms! To arms! With strife the welkin rings
Where progress plants it standard at the fore,
And earth again is drenched in human gore
As sons of freedom rise on ardor’s wings
To wrest authority from hands of kings,
Unmindful of the shriek of priestly lore
That right divine was on the crowns they wore,
Inscribed by God from whom all power springs,
As Christ of Caesar said. The parson’s day
Has passed to Rousseau, Junius, and Fame
The age seeks not upon the Jewish tree
That “liberty wherein Christ made us free,”
When eighteen Christian ages bless the sway
Of royal tyrant’s dungeon, rack, and chain.
The Spirit of the Age doth never dwell
In conflicts won, but ever turns its face
To future strife, and seeks to lead the race
To fresher fields. The waters from its well
E’er moisten growing thought, and we foretell
From present problems coming strife. We give place
To other themes than right divine or grace,
Or church or king; coercion hath no spell
O’er rights achieved. Free thought, free speech, and ballot won,
Grim Labor turns to face its ancient foes
In angry mien. Look o’er our modern States,
The economic problem with us dates,
And heed the moral progress once begun,
Coercion wanes the wider freedom grows.
In the history of human progress centuries are the milestones by which we measure the distance traversed. In the East even this method fails us, so stereotyped and lifeless are the forms of social life, so slight the change. But with the restless activity of the Aryan tribes in the West each century has grown more and more unlike the preceding. Grecian culture and Roman arms had broken down the narrowness of national and tribal exclusiveness when the Christian era opens. Roman administration had united vast and distant provinces into an Empire. One after the other they had succumbed to the invader. Whole regions were reduced to slavery; people were transplanted as cattle to swell the wealth of their conquerors; maidens were doomed to prostitution and their brothers to servile labor under the rod of a taskmaster.
Old ties were broken, old customs rudely severed. The Roman lever wielded by the hand of Might brought social upheaval. With ancient liberties trampled upon, lands confiscated or loaded with onerous taxation, homes the spoil of an avaricious procurator, courage withered, the spirit of manhood died, thoughts of vengeance or redress remained dreams. Religion itself had lost its saving grace. The rapidity of conquest rendered gods commonplace. Powerless to protect their people, they were powerless to retain their dominion. Their jostling together in the Roman Pantheon robbed them of their dignity; from familiarity the course ran easily to contempt.
Yet in this social chaos Time reveals its constituent factors. The history of Europe is the record of struggle between conflicting principles; of antagonistic forces contesting for possession. These principles may be named Authority and Liberty. As the result, we have had centuries of internecine strife filled with wails of orphans, shrieks of ravished maidens, tears of widowed and childless mothers, and curses of tortured and helpless fathers; cities sacked, depopulated, and burned; provinces, once teeming with millions in fancied security, becoming barren wastes; schools and universities destroyed, libraries given to the flames and their readers to the sword, the study of mathematics denounced and forbidden, the learning of the past buried in oblivion, and awards bestowed on superstitious ignorance; the blighting effect of fire and fagot in suppressing originality of thought, of rack and gibbet in deteriorating manhood, and of celibacy in the artificial selection of those who possessed what knowledge survived to leave no offspring; the restriction of invention to new instruments for human torture; the constant inculcation that nature is vile and natural enjoyments “fleshly vanities” to be decried, enforced by suppression of Olympic festivals and Capitoline games by Christian emperors and the abolition of public and private baths by the Spanish clergy; the growth of the religion of the Cross, watered by Charlemagne’s sword and Inquisitorial zeal, and sorrow and tears installed in smiling nature with pessimistic ardor as man’s normal condition.
How is it, then, we may well ask, that out of such a tremendous outlay of living material we have—civilization? For a thousand years the word had lost even its old significance. Roman civilization had reaped the fruit of social corruption and privilege which the genius of Authority had so assiduously sown, and on its ruins we see arising those hideous prodigies,—the Papacy and Feudalism; the twin dogmas of Csesarism,—Church and State. All writers on government seek to determine the position of a just line separating freedom and obedience; how far authority may encroach upon liberty for the preservation of an alleged social order and the maintenance of existing social conditions. It is admitted that in the abstract they are irreconcilable enemies; that, where authority exists, it must involve a loss of a certain degree of personal liberty. In all ages men have sought and still seek to balance these contradictory forces. True social alchemists, they believe that they may be fused to yield harmony as an emergent. What authority is, the world knows. It ever shelters itself behind existing institutions,—survivals of a past stage of progress,—which our social alchemists invariably omit to eliminate from their retorts. Its most logical claim is known to the world by the name of Cæsarism: the claim of absolute and universal sovereignty. It ever seeks support in might, and justification in the maintenance of order. When Napoleon the Little exclaimed: “L’Empire, c’est la paix!” he expressed the animating thought of Caesar and Augustus.
Liberty, however, is undefinable. To define it is to limit it; to materialize it by giving it a fixed form in a progressive social environment. It is ever privilege, not freedom, that requires “constitutional guarantees.” In the following pages, therefore, I have made no attempt to delineate its features, though I trust 1 have been able to seize its spirit. The true answer to the eternal conundrum can only be discovered by watching its course through the ages. To understand civilization and its tendencies we must go back of the seething crucible of the middle ages and analyze their conflicting forces. We must read the milestones of the ages to detect the silver cord of progress winding through darkness to understand the present and catch inspiration from the eternal Zeit-geist. I am not writing the history, or tracing the historic events, of these centuries. My purpose is one far more searching. It is to trace the underlying causes to which we owe the modern tendencies to subordinate the spirit of authority to that of liberty; not what kings and peoples have done, but why they have so done; what the spirit was that shaped their rough-hewn efforts.
To the question: “Our civilization—whence?” We are brought to the great distinguishing features between European and other civilizations. In all the old civilizations of Asia, as well as that of Egypt, society had reached a fixed form; what had once been habit had hardened into enforced custom with the sanction of legality. Self-denial, rather than what Sterling termed “pagan self-assertion,” had become the cardinal virtue. They had all ceased to possess individuality, and had sunk into blind obedience to the interpreters of the gods. Why individuality had ceased to exist has been elaborately set forth by Buckle. The universal economic law that, where the extraordinary fertility of nature supplies a cheap food, there the population tend to servility in character and a degrading poverty in social life, had full scope in all trans-European civilizations. While probably none of them were indigenous in origin, from the want of the necessary spur to activity, in each case man had succumbed to nature.
In the history of Greece we first meet with two new facts in the intellectual history of man: 1, its geographical position in a more temperate zone called out the bodily activity of the Greeks to a greater degree than Egypt or Asia had ever known; 2, the general aspects of nature, by their greater uniformity,—the absence of the startling or terrible,—acted less strongly upon the imagination. Consequently their religion had less of the terrible in doctrine or rite, and a less repressive influence upon the development of the intellect. Rome, somewhat similarly situated, early assimilated the Grecian conception of the dignity of man, and the energy of the understanding tended to supplant the poetic instincts of the imagination. The Aryan, finding himself in a new and peaceful environment, grew less imaginative as the friendly aspect of nature grew more familiar. Benignant nature in Europe softened the awful majesty of the Oriental gods, with their future abodes of eternal woe.
But the extension of the practical genius of the Roman people soon introduced a contrary tendency. The uniformity which Greece was rapidly extending up the heights of Olympus, in Rome found expression in politics; the development of intellect fell before that of craft. And because dealing with men rather than with gods, material weapons were called into employment. The simplicity which had always characterized the domestic life of Caesar, under the further development of his Idea, gave place to the pomp of a Caligula and Heliogabalus, and under Diocletian and Constantine had established in the palace Oriental sultanism. The same process inevitably resulted in the realm of religious conceptions; the imagination was again exalted over the intellect, man was again subordinated to nature. But in this case imperialism was an unnatural development. Europe could not supply the environment requisite to the perpetuity of Asiatic submissiveness; the same great natural causes which had moulded the minds of Greek and Roman were still as active as ever; hence the ceaseless struggle of the ages. They were ever manifesting their influence in the great intellectual revolts of Manes, Arius, Pelagius, and other heretics. They were the struggles of man against authority, to reassert the supremacy of the understanding over the imagination. Buckle has well said:
Looking at the history of the world as a whole, the tendency has been, in Europe, to subordinate nature to man; out of Europe to subordinate man to nature. To this there are in barbarous countries several exceptions; but in civilized countries the rule has been universal. The great division, therefore, between European civilization and non-European civilization, is the basis of the philosophy of history, since it suggests the important consideration that, if we would understand, for instance, the history of India, we must make the external world our first study, because it has influenced man more than man has influenced it. If, on the other hand, we would understand the history of a country like France, or England, we must make man our principal study, because, nature being comparatively weak, every step in the great progress has increased the dominion of the human mind over the agencies of the external world.
Taking the history of Europe in one comprehensive glance, this is profoundly true; but what Buckle has not emphasized is no less true, that the introduction of Cæsarism was an effort to counteract the influences of nature by an appeal to Oriental methods; a futile attempt, as it proved, because the genius of authority could not altogether repress the tendencies everywhere injected into social life by fresh invasions. From the fifth to the tenth centuries inclusive, civil authority was weak, and consequently unable to reduce man to passive obedience to Spiritual Cæsarism. The long contest of the middle ages was a struggle between natural tendencies and a faith uncongenial to European soil; a faith, not in the human, but in the superhuman, repressing individuality and exalting mediocrity by canonizing the “servile virtues.” In China the weight of authority, having a settled condition of society in which to operate, has successfully reduced mind to mediocrity, the Gospel of Commonplace has been assiduously cultivated in character, and genius repressed by the sanctity of custom. And in this connection thoughtful minds will do well to recall the warning words of John Stuart Mill:
The modern regime of public opinion is, in an unorganized form, what the Chinese educational and political systems are in an organized; unless individuality shall be able to assert itself against this yoke, Europe, notwithstanding its noble antecedents and its professed Christianity, will tend to become another China.
Whether custom can effect what material force found itself unable to accomplish, is not the problem we have here to consider. We have now to study past conditions, when nature was supposed to be silent before the authoritative revelation of its “Maker.” So profoundly did the genius of authority impress this upon the human mind that even today a majority of the civilized world still profess to believe it; still hold that a written code of few rights and many duties, arising under a past stage of culture, is of universal application; that the Hindu, the African, and the South American have entered upon the highroad of earthly civilization and heavenly bliss, the moment they yield dogmatic assent to an alleged revelation. And this, too, in view of the signal failure of Christianity in Mexico and Peru, and the equal paucity of results attending modern missions.
The Oriental view of man’s nature and destiny did not succeed in Europe, but its failure was not altogether owing to the influence of “the general aspects of nature, climate, soil, and food,” the four conditions upon which Buckle lays sole stress. We know that these conditions profoundly modified the aspect of Christianity and influenced thought, but Imperialism failed because the general upheaval of society, following the Barbarian invasion, had left it powerless to enforce its high pretensions, until the new society had been so long under natural influences that eradication became impossible. The papal thunders of Innocent III. and Boniface VIII., in the noonday of papal power, fell upon a world far different from that which had listened awe-struck to Gregory the Great.
The first great factor we detach from the warring forces in the genesis of our civilization is the general one,—nature. We have now to consider the special factors which have entered into the emergent. These we will find to be two: 1. Rome; 2, the Teuton invaders, whose influence upon the forming social state prevented the full exercise of the Caesarian claim.
I. Rome. The most fruitful event, probably, in history is that known by the name of Julius Caesar, who was the head and rallying point in the revolution which overturned the Roman Republic and paved the way for that system of government with which his name is forever associated; one which has largely colored all succeeding history, and is the direct progenitor of the various phases of authority under which modern States are organized. Rome had brought vast regions into closer social relations, broken down provincial narrowness and prejudice, and was introducing administrative unity. From the British Isles in the West to the empire of Mithridates in the East, Rome’s victorious legions had carried her standard. Kingdoms, cities, national institutions, and local independence fell before the invading hosts. Roman genius had a predilection for administration. Rome was not a mere collection of palaces and huts, a limited geographical space, but the mistress of the world, and about to become a religion. Man was nothing save as Roman citizenship conferred upon him rights; even personality was absorbed in the citizen, subordinated to the city. To the citizen Rome brought equality before the law, but it was an equality where individualism found no place: to freemen, a vast State Communism; to the populace, a social providence by which they had been treated as children,—fed by free distribution of grain, and amused by free theatrical representations and gladiatorial exhibitions.
In previous centuries Persia had undertaken the task of establishing a universal empire, but that attempt had been dictated by desire to obtain new provinces paying tribute rather than new fields for devastation. Persia had lacked the genius for combining its vast possessions under a common civilization; hence its several provinces were united only by a rope of sand, to be dispersed by the first adverse blast. It had joined States, not united them under a common discipline; there was no cohesion of parts, no unity of administration, to cement the work of the sword. Later, the conquests of Alexander the Great, so far from building up a Greek empire, had laid the foundation for the subsequent ruin of Greece. Although the splendor of his victories gave a common purpose and aim to Grecian cities, hitherto torn by contending factions and in perpetual strife with each other, engendered by mutual jealousies, it afforded an aim which led enterprise from Greece to Asia, transferred commercial greatness from Athens to Alexandria, and drained Greece of men and means to establish colonies abroad,—colonies that ceased to have that connection with and interest in the parent country which the old Athenian policy had so successfully carried out.
Rome conquered and remodeled. With Roman arms went Roman customs. Military success involved civil reconstruction and Roman organization. By the side of the Roman camp grew a miniature Rome. The rapacity of the indigenous tyrant was replaced by that of the foreign tax-gatherer; in which, however, there was often the boon of law and order, or—less euphoniously—systematized robbery, not seizing what it could, or might desire, but assessing a stipulating sum. The law and order of might, it is true, but often preferable to the arbitrary exactions dictated by capricious will.
Under this unity of administration that Roman conquests had prepared, and the Empire was to perfect, the antagonizing influences of local jealousies, which had hitherto divided the world into petty and hostile States, and having as a consequence their distinctive national, or local, deities, were to give place to a common interest and a common aim. Caesar but carried out what the dominant instinct of the Roman people demanded. He was the incarnation of Roman genius; realizing in fact what Rome had long seen in vision. Caesar was a great man, not because he laid the foundation for the Empire and enabled his nephew Octavianus to assume the imperial crown, nor for the reason that he reduced civil chaos to military order, but for the greater reason that he was a true child of Rome, inheriting her genius, and with the mental calibre to realize the ideal which had risen before his clear vision into tangible form. Lewes has said: “The great thinker is the secretary of his age,” and Caesar was great because he could grasp and render explicit what was implicit in the Roman mind.
We thus trace the origin of the modern State to Caesar’s legacy, but this is not all. The dogma of authority, or imperialism, that the Caesarian age introduced was not confined to the realm of politics alone. God and the State are the twin dogmas of Cæsarism. It extended its conquests from earthly princes to Olympic deities, and sought to subordinate both realms to the pleasure of a Universal Will. Instead, therefore, of accepting the teleological hypothesis of a strategic hand “behind phenomena” determining the result of human actions, or graciously permitting similar sequences to follow similar antecedents, we are led to conclude that the monotheistic belief is an outgrowth of the social environment which made the personal rule of a single will triumphant in social affairs. I would not be understood as asserting that, but for the realization of the Roman dream of universal dominion, monotheism would not, nevertheless, have supplanted polytheism, for that is one of the “might have beens.” But in such case it would not have been characterized by the features Rome has so deeply impressed upon that belief. The barbarians, as well as the cultured Greeks, had risen to the conception of unity as personified in a Great Spirit and All-Father, but the intellectual tendencies of Grecian development were rather to a pantheistic unity. Rome, with her hard, practical genius, seized the thought, and under the guiding hand of Roman bishops it hardened into the rigid form of the Christian God. In the words of Dr. Draper: “Monotheism was the result of the establishment of an imperial government in. Rome.”
With the triumph of Caesar over the Senate there was indissolubly connected the later triumph of Cæsarism in theology; the political order introduced by Roman arms carrying with it the conception of imperialism governing the moral order of the universe familiarized by Roman thought. The same sequence of events which had undermined tribal limitations destroyed the theological conceptions which were an outgrowth of those limitations. Grecian travellers and expeditions had undermined the power of Grecian gods. Grecian thought had already become emancipated in intellectual circles, and the increasing solidarity of social interests and aims must still further have modified conceptions arising in a more primitive age. But to Rome belongs the final distinction of supplanting the liberty-loving optimism of Greece with the pessimism inherent under the long exercise of autocratic power, where the mind had been fettered and hope become despair.
If Rome had fallen, the fertile seeds of intellectual revolt contained in Grecian literature would have remained, and from another centre might still have kept alive and invigorated the latent capacities of the human intellect. But Rome lived! Its genius realized its dreams, and there necessarily resulted that stupendous social degeneration on which imperialism fattened, and which cast upon the world the fatal incubus under which for long centuries the moral nature was to be deformed, manliness of character changed by panem et circenses into slothful indolence, independence of thought replaced by monkish servility, and Grecian literature with art and science buried in oblivion to give room for mystical rhapsodies and monastic rules. The course of intellectual development, which had already taken its rise from subjection to the early myths into far grander and broader conceptions tinged with a living humanism when Rome was but an Italian provincial city “of cutthroats and robbers, might or might not have been checked by circumstances which, under another policy, lay hidden in the womb of time; still, it is difficult for human imagination to conceive of a more tragical ending to that bright dream of awakened mind than the genius of Rome entailed.
The civilization of Rome had for its corner-stone—Authority, and freedom languished in chains. Municipal duties became onerous and were avoided. Imperial rescripts interfered with trade, with the franchises of the citizens, and the common concerns of life. Civic office became the appanage of a small local aristocracy. But although imperial exactions were devastating the country, converting freeholders into slaves and depressing every spring of enterprise and activity, the curiales, or magistracy, of each city were still held personally responsible with their lives and fortunes for the collection of the impositions of the fiscal edicts. Authority, hated and feared, supplied such bond of union as still existed in social life. The rude familiarity of the Gallic chieftain with his dependents, and their free intercourse at a common table and under a common roof, began to give place to the privileges, immunities, and dignities of an aristocracy living a life apart; while the bitterness of despair of an enslaved peasantry robbed them of all energy and deprived them of all hope. The consolations afforded them by their ancient religions vanished as their local deities grew pale in the light arising from extended intercourse with the world. When the gods were ranged in the Pantheon in the fierce light of publicity, the charms of mystery which had hitherto surrounded them were dispelled. They had shown their powerlessness hi the moment of danger, and passed into forgetfulness when men saw their shrines devastated, as in Gaul, and no avenging dart follow. Bankrupt in faith, in manly energy, in moral independence, and doomed to the most relentless slavery, they dragged on their wearied lives in misery.
Roman imperialism had not only triumphed on earth, it had scaled the heavens and seated itself on the throne of the universe to triumph over the soul. Rome, with all the inherent vices which that word conveys, was still to survive the invasion of the liberty-loving Teuton, and, donning a pontifical robe over the royal purple, continued the attempted realization of her traditional dream of unity by the use of the same weapons, whose keenness of edge had lost nothing from the consecration they had received.
II. The Teuton. During the fifth century the Empire reeled under the blows everywhere given it by the invading barbarians. The Franks in Gaul; the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes in Britain; the Suevi and Visigoths in Spain; the Burgundians in the valley of the Rhone and the Alps; the Ostrogoths in Italy, toward which the Lombards were already wending their way; the Vandals in Corsica and Sardinia,—all had come to stay. In A. D. 476, the last of the emperors of the West, a timid youth, named with cruel mockery, as if in anticipation of his fate, from the founder of the city and the first of the emperors, Romulus Augustulus, was forced to resign the imperial purple, and the line became extinct. Extinct, save as represented by the Vicar of Christ, from whom the crown would be received by a new line of emperors in after centuries. But the barbarians, in spreading themselves over the Empire and destroying the fiction of temporal unity, had introduced a far deadlier foe to the genius of authority than Roman politics had ever known. The Teutons brought the germ of liberty. Individuality, personality, not of the soul, but of the flesh; not of the inner and spiritual, but of the outer and carnal man, was insurgent in the new blood which was to revive the expiring vitality of the West.
In their forest homes the earth belonged to no one; every year the tribe assigned to each one of its members a lot to cultivate, and the lot was changed the following year. He was proprietor of the harvest, but not of the land. Their kings, or chiefs, were elected, and could be easily deposed; they were leaders rather than rulers. “The power of the kings,” says Tacitus, “is not arbitrary or unlimited; they generally command power by warlike example rather than by their authority . . . . . Their passion for liberty is attended with ill consequence: when a public meeting is announced, they never assemble at the stated time. Regularity would look like obedience; to mark their independent spirit, they do not convene at once; between two or three days are lost in delay . . . . . No man dictates to the assembly; he may persuade, but cannot command.” When the young Roman assumed the prerogatives of a citizen, he was invested with a toga as the emblem of civil equality; when the young Teuton attained to manhood, he was given a shield and javelin before the assembled tribe as the symbol of personal independence. The toga virilis of the Roman inculcated obedience to constituted authority: the shield and javelin to the young German were an incentive to personal energy. Their kings deliberated in the public assemblies, and were carefully excluded from the power to decree laws, or to apply them in particular cases.
The conquerors brought with them the simple faith of barbaric tribes. Grossly superstitious, the imposing ritual of Christianity could not but fill their minds with awe and respect,—the first step toward reverence. Their simple rites were but ill suited for lands where the native faith had fallen before Roman skepticism and monastic zeal. They were struck with the wonderful administrative genius displayed by Rome. In seizing the cities and establishing themselves on conquered estates as the dominant race, they felt the need of a talent they did not possess. To capture a city, or a province, called for personal bravery, for deeds of daring and courage, and this they had. To govern it demanded what neither personal prowess nor the laws of their forest life could supply. The forms of law were in their hands, but their clumsy fingers lacked the suppleness to use them. All knowledge, all intelligence, was with the clergy. In receiving baptism they gained the intelligence and skill of the bishops in the work of administration. The bishops gained possession of the arm of flesh. Of the Franks Sismondi says:
Their high veneration for the church, and their savage orthodoxy, so much the more easy to preserve, because, never studying nor disputing concerning the faith, they did not even know the questions controverted, gave them in the clergy powerful auxiliaries. The Franks were disposed to hate the Arians, and to fight and despoil them without listening to them. The bishops in return showed themselves to be no more scrupulous in the moral teachings of religion; they closed their eyes on violence, murder, debauchery; they authorized, in a measure, public polygamy, and they preached the divine right of kings and the duty of obedience for the people.
Of the early Frank kings and their indifference to ecclesiastical affairs, Guizot says:
Unless impelled by some powerful motive, neither Gondebald, Chilpiric, nor Gonthran troubled themselves in the matter. And words have come down to us of Bargundian, Gothic, and Frank kings which prove how little they were disposed to exert their power in such causes. “We cannot command religion,” said Theodonc, king of the Ostrogoths, “no one can be forced to believe in spite of himself.” “Since the Deity suffers different religions,” said King Theodobat, “we dare not press a single one. We remember having read that God must be sacrificed to willingly, and not under the constraint of a master. Those, therefore, who attempt to do otherwise evidently oppose themselves to the divine commands.”
Truly, here was difficult soil for Rome to cultivate. In these royal converts the old Teutonic love for individuality manifested itself strongly, but from age to age it grew weaker as the hand of Rome grew stronger. In the days of Charlemagne such language no longer was heard from royal lips. Well could St. Prosper of Aquitaine say: “Rome, the See of St. Peter, made the head of the world in honor of the Apostle, holds by its religion what it no longer possesses by its sword.” Fortunately for the world, constant war saved Europe from the dangers of peace. In Gaul constant invasion kept alive the fierce activity of the conquerors. The Huns and warlike tribes beyond the Alps, the pagans of Saxony and Friesland on the North, the Moors in the South, followed later by the piratical Northmen along the coast, kept for centuries the martial spirit dominant. The church had to accommodate itself to its environment.
The dream that, but for this rude necessity for constant strife, a state of Christian progress might have resulted under the more genial influences of a milder spirit, is directly disproved by the history of contemporary Spain. Admirably situated, combining advantages of an insular as well as of a continental position, and on the North defended by the barrier of the Pyrenees, Spain presented all the elements for national greatness. Her rich plains abounded in cattle and luxuriant fruits, mines of various precious metals lay in her soil, and her seaports had early attracted the attention of the roving Phenicians.
In the opening years of the fifth century the barbarians passed the Pyrenees, and in the year 414 had founded the Visigothic monarchy, thus antedating? Clovis in Gaul by seventy-two years. They had been converted to Christianity in their native forests, but held it under its Arian form. For three centuries Spain had been a field of Christian missions, and had here met with less resistance. Teutonic individualism, here as elsewhere, curbed absolutism by constant self-assertion. The new monarch, elected by the swords of his adherents and raised on a shield, upon assuming power, was addressed in these words: “If thou doest the right, thou shalt be king; if thou doest not the right, thou shalt not be king.”
In two particulars the Visigothic mouarchs differed from the Frank: 1, They had entered upon dominion as Christians; 2, The Pyrenees defended them from invasion from without. Its insular position produced somewhat similar effects to that witnessed in Britain. The system of real laws, or laws based on land, began to gain over their hereditary personal laws, or laws based on the origin of individuals. In Spain, however, the whole code of the Visigothic law was the work of the clergy, and the Roman principle predominated, overruling the fundamental principle of other barbarian codes, i. e., “the furtherance of private interests.” The release from danger of constant irruption of hostile hordes by land, and the ease with which they met the Vandal, Sueve, and Roman troops and dispersed them, quieted the fierce “activity of the Goth, and the priest rose correspondingly in influence. Still Arian Spain could not give unity; there was no cohesion among her provinces. In the year 586 a new king, Recared, declared himself Catholic, and Spain entered upon the highway of centralization, unity, and peace. As a consequence, we find that, in the words of Hallam, “no kingdom was so thoroughly under the bondage of the hierarchy as Spain.” While the fierce warrior lost influence, that of the priest augmented.
The national assemblies which, while Spain was Arian, had embraced the three estates, in Catholic Spain soon changed their representative character. The commons were first dropped, and soon only such of the nobility as held court office were included. The interests of the people became indifferent. Finally the councils of the church were the sole “parliaments of the realm.” The king, who had been held by the Goths as entitled to obedience so long as he respected the rights of his people as individuals, was now told by the Council of Toledo that no king could be accepted, unless he promised to preserve the orthodox faith; and it became “an established custom” for kings to prostrate themselves before the bishops assembled in council. The one great object was to extirpate difference in belief, to bring all minds to the dead level of a common creed. Instigated by the example of the Eastern emperor, Heraclius, in the year 616 the king issued an edict that within a year the Jews in Spain should either embrace Christianity, or should be shorn, scourged, and expelled from the kingdom and their possessions confiscated. Yet we are told that they were quiet citizens, engaging in no tumults, and industrious. Ninety thousand were subjected to enforced conversion.
The effect of Christian imperialism was soon apparent in deterioration of character. The assemblies, which under the Arian Goths had developed the spirit of personality hereditary in the race, were now vociferous for unity; individuality in character was succeeded by mediocrity. “The terrible laws against bigotry,” says Milman, “and the atrocious juridical persecution of the Jews, already designate Spain as the throne and centre of merciless bigotry;” and which was, says Buckle, “harsher than in any other country.” The great principles which distinguished the legislation of Goth, Saxon, Frank, Burgundian, and Lombard alike, rescuing Europe from Cæsarism; which has everywhere else, in the words of Dr. Arnold, “in blood and institutions left its mark legibly and indelibly,” in Spain was crushed out. The isolation of Spain left the rival principles to meet in sharper outline than elsewhere. The source of authority, whether from above,—God,—or from below,—the people,—seems a barren inquiry. But the verdict of history is that they are fraught with far different and most momentous consequences. Power from above is divine, absolute, fixed, knowing no change and permitting none in practice save increased centralization. Power from the people is human, relative, dispersive, subject to the changes of social growth; ever tending to widen out from the theoretic centre to individuals in spite of forced restraints privilege seeks to erect. The impress thus made by Christian Cæsarism upon ancient Spain has never been effaced. “There she lies, at the further extremity of the continent, a huge and torpid mass, the sole representative now remaining of the feelings and knowledge of the Middle Ages.” [Buckle.]
In 711 the Arab-Moors invaded Spain. All courage and spirit were crushed, and they had an easy conquest, and at one time threatened to overrun the whole West. Charles Martel defeated them and drove them back. Christendom was saved! What our civilization would have been but for Charles’s success we cannot say. Yet we may safely affirm that the battle of Poictiers, which saved Europe from the Crescent for the Cross, preserved it as well from the revival of learning the Arabs were to so successfully undertake. Instead of Islam and an awakened intellect, we had Christianity and” the Dark Ages. We must bear iii mind that the Moslem faith, driven back upon itself and mainly confined to the Orient, lost its golden opportunity. What it is under such circumstances is far different from what it would have been subjected to European development, as the study of that other Oriental faith, Christianity, illustrates. The infusion of the Teutonic spirit in the one case, as it has in the other, would have profoundly modified the faith, as it has the aspect of civilization. We have no reason to think that Moslem success would have been for ill. Nor can we behold the evidence of wisdom which we are called upon to believe forced the intellect into lethargy and postponed its awakening for five hundred years; and, further, that this final release of the intellect from bondage was to be due to the reflected light from the Arabian schools in Spain.
Under the-Arab-Moors Spain witnessed the cultivation of the soil carried to a higher degree of perfection than ever before or since. While the great capitals of Europe were reeking in filth by day and shrouded in impenetrable gloom by night, the capital of Spain had been for centuries paved and lighted. While the Vicars of Christ were issuing bulls against the study of the sciences in the University of Paris, the schools of Spain had long nourished their most assiduous study. The literature of ancient Greece was exhumed. Commerce extended its sway to distant India. The Arabian nobility had no contempt for the calling of the merchant. During the tenth century, when Europe was in its most degraded period, Spain had attained to its greatest splendor,—a splendor unmarred by religious intolerance. From her schools came the first rays to pierce the thick gloom of the Dark Ages, introducing in Europe a knowledge of the works of Aristotle and the study of logic. In the works of Euclid Christendom learned the existence of geometry; algebra and our numerals came from the same infidel hand. Philosophers like Gerbert, afterward Pope Sylvester II., there found welcome and learned the globular form of the earth, its geographical outlines, the study of chemistry, medicine, which early became introduced into Europe by Jews, and a more thorough system of mining than Spain could develop even in the last century. Also we owe to them the discovery of gunpowder, linen paper, and the compass; the introduction of rice, sugar, cotton, and silk; the improved breed of horses; a wonderful dexterity in the manipulation of steel and the preparation of leather; the graceful poetic disputations afterward improved by the troubadours, and the softening of manners and noble gallantry known as chivalry. But why particularize? While it would be too much to assert that, but for the Moors, the long night of the Middle Ages would not have passed away, we can affirm that it was through their influence that it did pass away. The seeds of intellectual growth, which providential wisdom denied them the opportunity to plant in Gaulish soil, were blown by friendly winds across the Pyrenees to take root in the wastes of Christian ignorance.
We have thus passed in review the great factors of civilization. Rome had brought unity; for two centuries before the time of Caesar this had been her ruling Idea. Her administration of affairs had secured the civil equality of freemen. Law and order, based upon authority, gained a foothold which it has never entirely lost in theory. The man was lost in the citizen.
Germany brought what Rome lacked,—individuality,—the freedom of the barbarian. Civil equality,—the right of the State,—and individual rule,—personal might,—were thus brought into contest on the field of the Empire. Although conquerors, they were barbarians, and were everywhere confronted with institutions which they had nothing to replace. The grandeur of Rome, the Empire itself, lay in these institutions, in her laws, her administration, her organization. Rome was an Idea, and its name dazzled the eye and survived the fall of the throne. To govern was to possess and control these agencies, to use them for their purposes.
Under the genial influence of European nature the human element in religion constantly asserted itself. Although the Church was the successor of Caesar rather than of Peter, the Gospels were not wholly a dead letter. In all ages there were some to whom the words of Jesus struck responsive chords. Whether preached in sincerity or as an arm to achieve ends, they were still promulgated; though powerless in the East, under the more benign influences of Western environments they exerted influence. Ideas are veritable forces, and have their effect independent of the motives of those who use them for personal aims. The charity of the Gospels had its root in human nature; it was a social product. Unlike the idea of authority, it did not descend from on high; it arose from human relationship, and consequently survived both barbarian individuality and Christian, or Caesarian, unity; it held its own against the anarchy of the one and the intolerance of the other, and served as the flux to fuse the discordant elements, self and power, when the electric spark of the French Revolution should bring together these conflicting factors of civilization into the triune formula of the future,—Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.
Our task is done so far as tracing out the sources of modern civilization. We have yet to trace out the result of the struggle. If our progress is wholly due, as Buckle maintained, to the increase of knowledge, it is important to thoroughly understand the causes of that increase and the obstacles opposing it. No “strategy of providence” will solve the problem save by the introduction of the fierce barbarian and the infidel Saracen, who came, not to preserve “His religion,” but to modify and civilize it. But before entering upon the study of modern history we have yet further scaffolding to remove. I hear it asserted in wonderment: What! Is not Christianity a factor to be considered in the discussion of the evolution of civilization? In the preceding pages I have classed the Church as an institution under the head of Cæsarism; but for the benefit of metempirical readers who would fain distinguish between organized and unorganized Christianity, I will be more explicit. Nor in the prosecution of our inquiry into the meaning of history can it be deemed irrelevant.
Christianity presents two phases, the human and the divine: Jesus, the man; Christ, the Messiah. The man appealing to men in subjection, breathing consolation, speaking of pity, recommending submission. The Messiah claiming authority, sonship to the God of Heaven and the future Judge of the earth. In temporal affairs it was the wail of despair, it sanctified oppression and bid the oppressed draw post obit drafts on the future. Patriotism was a delusion, material well-being a snare, for our citizenship was elsewhere. Though the hope it presented was born of despair, it appealed to despair. Christianity was the religion of the Christ rather than of the man Jesus. Jesus was human, a carpenter’s son, a homeless vagrant; his tender words welled up from the great beating heart of humanity. It was the voice of nature knitting kindred hearts in human brotherhood. There was no basis for religion there. Christ the Anointed, the representative of divine authority, having power to bind and loose, furnished such basis. Authority!—not of the homeless one, but of the Divine Christ—was the rock on which Christianity was based; and this rock we have seen to have been cut from the quarry of Cæsarism. Christianity as a “spirit of life” we have fully considered under the head of Nature. As an institution it claims authority descending from above, a gift vouchsafed to man by divine grace.
God and man! Divine and human! Christ and Liberty! They are antipodal conceptions. Men were sons of God, it is true, but, as sonship preceded brotherhood, we find that as, early as Paul’s time the non-recognition of the first annulled the second: “What concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” Assuredly, none. The man Jesus had been long dead, but the Christ was eternal! The words of the Gospels were still preached, Jesus and a crust were still held out to the oppressed to stifle the human cry, but Christ and power were the soul of the Church. Throughout history we everywhere find Christianity the equerry of force. It has followed civilization, never led it. The lackeys of the emperors became suppliants at the feet of the barbarian to offer counsel and advice. It has given its benediction to every attempted rape of humanity, blessed the tyrant’s sword and the headman’s axe, consecrated the despot, anathematized the patriot, and excommunicated and burned the devotee of liberty. Civilization has arisen, not descended. It springs from human needs, does not trickle from divine grace. It looks forward to progress,—Liberty; not backward to revelation,—Authority. Let us have done with the fiction. The heart of humanity is right in its instinctive cry: “Away with him!” We will have neither the Christ of the Church nor the Barabbas of the State to rule over us. Like the Siamese twins, they are inseparable; the ligature “divine right” has united them in life, it holds them to a common fate. The divine type may change in different ages, but the virus of authority ever taints its complexion. The blood-thirsty Jehovah sawing men asunder, the God of the early Christians shocked at natural affection, the almighty Fiend of the Middle Ages watching human thought, the straight-laced Father of the Puritans wholesaling damnation, the good-natured bourgeois God of today,—what alliance is there between them and liberty? What matters it whether God be depicted in thought as clothed in vengeance as a robe, hurling thunderbolts against men and roasting infants, or pictured as a shrewd, paunch-bellied, white-waistcoated old gentleman? Neither the one nor the other are sponsors for liberty. It is liberty that has modified the type by emasculating authority. The God of the nineteenth century is castrated; the form only remains, virility is gone.
Is this but declamation? Let us, then, open the pages of history, and in our sober senses study their meaning. If Christianity be not spiritual Cæsarism, but an ameliorating factor in civilization, we must behold such influence exerted in the society it was called by the force of circumstances to mould and govern. We will therefore consider the following topics: The influence of Christianity on public morals, on legislation, and on slavery.
I. Morals. When we come to look for the evidence of moral conversion, alas! the testimony is not flattering. Dean Milman remarks:
In the conflict or coalition, barbarism had introduced into Christianity all its ferocity, with none of its generosity or magnanimity; its energy shows itself in atrocity and cruelty and even in sensuality. Christianity has given to barbarism hardly more than its superstition, and its hatred of heretics and unbelievers. Throughout, assassinations, parricides, and fratricides intermingle with adulteries and rapes. The cruelty might seem the more inevitable result of this violent and unnatural fusion; but the extent to which this cruelty spread throughout the whole society almost surpasses belief. . . . Christianity hardly interfered even to interdict incest. . . . With the world Christianity began rapidly to barbarize.
According to a chronicler of the time, Salvian, in whom natural honesty and human virtues had not been sapped by ecclesiastical preferment, the Christians shamed the barbarians with their vices. He said:
Among the chaste barbarians we alone are unchaste; the very barbarians are shocked at our impurities. Among themselves they will not tolerate whoredom, but allow this shameless license to the Romans «s inveterate usage. We cherish, they execrate, incontinence; we shrink from, they are enamored of, purity; fornication, which with them is a crime and a disgrace, with us is a glory.
Michelet, ever eloquent in chanting the praises of unity, says:
The priest, in fact, was now king. The Church had silently made her way in the midst of the tumult of barbaric invasion which had threatened universal destruction. Strong, patient, and industrious, she had so grasped the whole of the body politic as thoroughly to interfuse herself with it. Early abandoning speculation for action, she had avoided the bold theories of Pelagianism and adjourned the great question of human liberty. The savage conquerors of the Empire required to have, not liberty, but submission preached to them to induce them to bow their necks to the yoke of civilization and the Church.
To insure submission, to inculcate Roman qualities, surely there was no room for transmitting secular knowledge. The great schools which Roman emperors under the Old Empire had so munificently endowed fell info decay; the poet and the grammarian were replaced by the priest and monk. The names of Roman authors were forgotten in admiration of such saints as Ammon, who had never seen his naked body, or left the narrow hole for even a moment in which he ate and slept, prayed and vegetated; or Didymus, who had never spoken to a human being for ninety years. To cleanse the body was to degrade the soul; and the most venerated, who attained to the distinction of canonization, seem to have been those who presented on their persons the greatest mass of clotted filth. The baths became ruins, and in their place we read of a convent of one hundred and thirty nuns whose feet were never washed and who shuddered in pious horror at the mention of a bath! Such schools as existed in the larger monasteries possessed but a limited range of studies, and those only which might make the scholar an apter priest. Priests were grossly ignorant, very few being able to sign their names, and those who could read were chiefly engaged in perusing legendary lives of dirty saints. The Church was too busy watching the struggle made for her in Gaul by St. Leger to establish a theocracy to waste time over grammarian quibbles. True, Gregory the Great established schools, but they were schools of music for the use of choristers. It has been said of him that he hated learning with more than Byzantine animosity, and no act of his disproves the accusation, while the expulsion from Rome of mathematical studies gives it credibility.
Nor were the monasteries such cradles of literature and peace as they are often described. The strict rules of Benedictine discipline centred the whole monastic life on three cardinal virtues: silence, seclusion, and passive obedience. If they were to devote a certain portion of each day to manual labor, it was not for the purpose of extending the blessings of agriculture and the arts of civilized life, but that those moments not employed in prayer might be so engrossed as to prevent extraneous thoughts from entering the mind. That the result was not so successful as Benedict anticipated we may infer from a monastic rule, quoted by Michelet, in these words: “A year’s penance for the monk who had lost a consecrated wafer. For the monk who had fallen with a woman two days’ bread and water!”
Yet the popes were not so engrossed in theological affairs as to neglect the temporal affairs of their neighbors. The conversion of Germany under the labors of St. Boniface and others had other aims than the extension of the alleged “Good News.” In France—for with Charles Martel and the eighth century we may begin to use that term—the rise of the mayors of the palace to greater power than the fainéant kings, introduced vigor into government. From this epoch France and the papacy became drawn together by the necessity that ever attracts those possessing privilege in disorderly times. France had been so long occupied with local ecclesiastical feuds and ambition that it had grown somewhat less intimately connected with Rome than was desired by its pontiffs. Rome felt the need of a strong government in France, but this had hitherto been prevented by the old cause,—Germanic invasions. These were far more formidable than attack from the South, where the Saracens had firmly established themselves. To render these attacks less dangerous led France to an alliance with Rome. Through the zeal of St. Boniface of the Anglo-Saxon Church,—thoroughly Roman in spirit and German in language,—the conversion of the Germans soon attained sufficient magnitude to divide the enemy; the converts becoming, by the adoption of Christianity, friendly to their Christian neighbors. More, Charles found in them recruits for his army to fight their pagan compatriots and prepare for’ the subsequent conquests of Pepin and Charlemagne. France gained power to the cause of royalty; Rome extended the prestige of her name and the grandeur of her hierarchy. “Liberty,” says Guizot, “was then a cause of disorder, not a principle of organization.” But why the qualifying “then”? Liberty in the eyes of authority, satisfied with its order, is ever disorder, anarchy.
We have now followed the course of events to the opening of the ninth century. Yet so far from the extension of Christianity ameliorating manners or aiding natural morality, we find society in greater dissoluteness. The seventh century had been preeminently the age of saints; it was a century, says Sismondi, “which has given the greatest number of saints to the calendar.” From the period when Queen Brunehant had been aided in her long list of murders by priests, finding in them willing instruments for the worst of crimes, all classes were tainted with vice. Superstition and ignorance were assiduously cultivated. Church dignitaries imitated the old Roman patricians, in prodigality, oppression, luxury, and vice. Intellect had flown from the shadow of the Cross to bloom under the Crescent; the long, dark night of the Middle Ages had fully set in. In every quarter kings were abdicating their power to seek a cell in a monastery. At the period at which we have arrived no less than eight Anglo-Saxon princes had laid their crowns at the feet of the pope, while kings of France and Lombardy followed their example and sought absolution from the Head of Christendom.
Cæsarism is not “a spirit of life,” but of death. Morality found no nourishment under the upas shade of the Messianic Branch. The historic page confirms the conclusion of Professor Bryce:
The Holy Roman Church and the Holy Roman Empire are one and the same thing under two aspects. Catholicism, the principle of universal Christian society, is also Romanism; that is to say, it rests upon Rome as the origin and type of its universality, manifesting itself as a mystic dualism which corresponds to the two natures of its Founder. Opposition between two servants of the same king it inconceivable, each being bound to aid and succor the other, the cooperation of both being needed in all that concerns the welfare of Christendom at large.
II. Legislation. It was formerly the usual custom to ascribe to Christianity the preservation of the Roman system of jurisprudence. Volumes have been written filled with glowing eulogies of the pious care of industrious monks in transcribing these laws and redacting the barbarous codes, and, finally, of the zeal with which they opened to the knowledge of the great legists of the Middle Ages the newly-discovered Justinian code. It is true that many of the ancient authors were preserved in monastic libraries, because elsewhere they were destroyed, but it is none the less true that the weight of the Church was directed against their study. Further, many of these manuscripts were erased to be used for preserving the record of some miracle-working saint. If these old manuscripts were copied (a doubtful point), the true and prevalent Christian spirit lay not with these few and unknown monks vegetating in their cells, but in the letter from Gregory the Great to the bishop of Vienne; a letter in which the bishop is sharply reproved for teaching grammar in the cathedral school. “It is not fit,” he wrote, “that a mouth sacred to the praises of God should be opened for those of Jupiter!”
Is it urged that the great Justinian, who codified the Roman legislation, was a Christian, and hence the preservation of his work was a Christian work? We know that Justinian was an ardent Christian, as he formally closed the schools of philosophy at Athens [A. D. 529], and made the teaching of the Grecian philosophers a capital crime (crime being the political synonym of theological sin). Modern criticism has forever exploded this a priori reasoning by appealing to the facts. Guizot, in his “History of Civilization in France,” conclusively showed that Roman legislation never became extinct. In the cities of southern France and of Italy the old municipal organization survived the establishment of the feudal system, and sheltered itself in the charters extorted by them in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Guizot, on this subject, says:
Not only do the barbaric laws everywhere make mention of the Roman laws, but there is scarcely a single document, or act, of this epoch which does not, directly or indirectly, attest their application. . . . . All absolute expressions are exaggerated; still, in considering things in general at the sixth century, we may say everything in Gaul was Roman. The contrary fact accompanies barbaric conquest: the Germans leave to the conquered population their laws, local, institutions, language, and religion. An invincible unity followed in the steps of the Romans: here, on the contrary, diversity was established by the consent and aid of the conquerors. We have seen that the empire of personality and individual independence, the characteristic of modern civilization, was of German origin; we here find its influence; the idea of personality presided in laws as in actions; the individualities of peoples, while subject to the same political domination, was proclaimed like that of man. Centuries must pass before the notion of territory can overcome that of race, before personal legislation can become real, and before a new national unity can result from the slow and laborious fusion of the various elements.
In the new face of affairs the introduction of personality necessarily produced discord,—in that it endangered privilege,—but the whole effort of the Church, now become a Christian Cæsarism, was to perpetuate the Roman, and crush out the Teutonic, Idea. In that boiling crucible of antagonistic forces which I have tried to analyze the foundation of modern civilization was laid; but until the period of the crusades the principle of personality was ever subordinated to that of Roman unity. The Justinian code was the embodiment of the spirit of Rome. It was to be in future centuries profoundly modified by the Teutonic element; but Christianity, the new incarnation of the same spirit, was too nearly akin to alter or modify it in any essential manner. Lecky says:
Receiving the heritage of these laws, Christianity no doubt added something; but a careful examination of the whole subject will show that it was surprisingly little, except ecclesiastical laws for punishing heretics and augmenting the influence of the clergy.
Dean Milman, the historian of Christianity, is equally explicit. He says:
Christianity, in the Roman Empire, had entered into a temporal polity with all its institutions long settled, its laws already framed. . . . . In the “Institutes” of Justinian it requires strong observation to detect the Christianity of the legislator.
Nor can it be alleged that Christianity merely adapted itself to the laws and political institutions as established, and sought its empire in the mind, or the heart, alone. Christianity, as a doctrine, “a spirit of life,” in all that distinguished it from the purely human, or social, elements, which needed no divine inspiration to reveal themselves in human nature, was based on an authoritative revelation made by Christ and recorded by his disciples. This became the Procrustean standard of all truth. Truth was divine, had been revealed to man, and any belief, or act which did not accord therewith was manifestly erroneous. The Church, as the living legatee of the Messiah, and the earthly minister of the Divine Caesar, could only adapt itself to that state of society where absolutism admitted of no appeal.
We see this strikingly illustrated in the fierce conflict between the papacy and the Lombards. The Lombards were bringing Italy under a unified rule; they had been converted from the Arian to the Catholic faith; they acknowledged the spiritual supremacy of the popes; they limited the enforcement of their Teutonic laws to their own race, leaving to the Romans their own laws; what more could be asked? The Lombard laws were characterized by a broad toleration unknown to the Caesarian code. There was sturdy independence, the right of popular representation, of indifference to absolute claims, and the sanctity of the individual,—there in germ. Witchcraft, the curse of the Christian ages, was denied as an impossibility. Canon Kingsley, in his eloquent lectures, exclaims:
If these were the old Teutonic laws, this the old Teutonic liberty, the respect for man as man, for woman as woman, whence came the opposite element? How is it that these liberties have been lost through almost all Europe? How is it that a system of law prevailed over the whole continent, up to the French Revolution, and prevails still in too many countries, the very opposite of all this? I am afraid that I must answer, mainly through the influence of the Roman clergy during the Middle Ages.
Panlus Diaconus, a Lombard chronicler, asserts with pardonable pride that violence and treachery were unknown, that no one plundered, and that the traveller went where he would unmolested. It was the struggle that appears everywhere in history, the struggle of authority against freedom. The spirit of the Roman and the Lombard, the spirit that governed their respective legislation, may be briefly stated in their own words. Pope Gelasius expressed the spirit dominant in Christianity when he addressed the emperor in these words:
There are two powers which rule the world, the imperial and the pontifical. You are the sovereign of the human race, but you bow your neck to those who preside over things divine. The priesthood is the greater of the two powers; it has to render an account in the last day for the acts of kings.
The Lombard Theodoric exhibited far other characteristics when he stated the sentiments by which he had regulated his actions. He said:
To pretend to a dominion over the conscience is to usurp the prerogative of God. By the nature of things the power of sovereigns is confined to political government. They have no right of punishment but over those who disturb the public peace. The most dangerous heresy is that of a sovereign who separates himself from part of his subjects because they believe not according to his belief.
In legislation, as in morals, Roman influence was Caesarian, and at war with the Teutonic element.
III. Slavery. Our notice of the effect of Christianity upon the institution of human slavery must be brief. We have seen that it had not given to the world moral purity. The barbarian conquerors were chaste, and held the lewdness of Romans in abhorrence. Yet with this soil to work upon the conversion of the pagan, while it established Christian authority and uniformity, let both priest and proselyte sink into the slough of vice. We have also seen that Christianity had no effect upon legislation, save to preserve whatever savored of absolutism, and to crush that in which liberty manifested itself. Can we look for a different result here? Christianity had appeared in an age when, as Coulanges says, “unity had been the general aspiration for two centuries,” and slavery was most extensive. Not the slavery of race, of the ignorant, but of the conquered, however learned, wealthy, or honored they might be. It was a system which drew into its vortex the poor debtor unable to meet his obligations, which opened its rapacious arms to receive children sold by their parents, or abandoned in infancy, and in which you might become the slave of your own neighbor. Yet from the lips of “the Man of sorrows,” or from those of his Apostles, came no word of condemnation. On the contrary, the highest praise was invariably bestowed upon the most servile virtues, and passive obedience td a Nero strenuously inculcated. Organized Christianity never lifted a weight nor loosened a fetter from the slave. What is somewhat indefinitely called unorganized Christianity we have seen to be a human, not a divine, product; an element not from above, but of the world, continually laboring to modify the Messianic claim of authority by supplanting the “divine” with human tendencies.
“Nations and classes,” says Lecky, “had been advancing since the days of Augustus.” The same social sequences which had led to unity of government in State and in religion was also silently operating to effect the social unity of the race. Long centuries passed before a change was apparent. The barbarians, with their new ideas of human nature and the value of human character, were the first to change the existing state of social life. Christian laws still forbade intermarriage between slave and the free; in fact, Christian Cæsarism intensified the feeling of the legitimacy of slavery. Lecky says:
If a free woman had improper intercourse with her slave, Constantine ordered that the woman should be executed and the slave burned alive. By the pagan law the woman had been simply reduced to slavery. The laws against fugitive slaves were all rendered more severe.
Later, during the period of the invasions, so many freed slaves entered the priestly office that Pope Leo the Great tried to prevent it on the ground that it must degrade the priesthood! Hallam says:
It is a humiliating proof of the degradation of Christendom that the Venetians were reduced to purchase the luxuries of Asia by supplying the slave markets of the Saracens. Their apology would perhaps have been that these were purchased from their heathen neighbors; but a slave dealer was probably not very inquisitive as to the faith or the origin of his victims. The trade was not peculiar to Venice. In England, even after the conquest, it was very common to export slaves to Ireland.
Charlemagne made inquiry regarding the sale of slaves to the Saracens, but it was only to prevent the sale of Christian believers to heathen masters. When the Italian dukes lay evidence before him implicating Pope Adrian in the sale of his own vassals to Saracens, he thought it better to shut his eyes and thus avoid giving rise to scandal. The practice, however, continued to a period subsequent to the crusades; and we are informed by various authors of the extent of the practice of selling the children of serfs to the Saracens,—a practice in which both ecclesiastics and barons were pecuniarily interested. In the year 864 Charles le Chauve forced the nobles and ecclesiastics, by a decree, to permit redemption for those who had been obliged by want to sell themselves into slavery to them. Hallam calls attention to the fact that “a source of loss of liberty, which may strike us as extraordinary, was superstition; men were infatuated enough to surrender themselves, as well as their properties, to churches and monasteries, in return for such benefits as they might reap by the prayers of their new masters.”
The change effected by the barbarian conquest affected slavery as well as other institutions, and under feudalism it became modified into serfdom, or predial slavery, and this lasted till that social harvest of the Christian ages,—the French Revolution. In Italy chattel slavery began to decrease in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, but still lingered until the fifteenth before it could be called extinct. In Germany it seems to have been entirely modified into serfdom during the thirteenth century. But under the new form it continued; in England, to the time of Elizabeth. Slavery was modified into serfdom by causes with which Christianity had nothing to do. So, too, the final disappearance of serfdom was produced by independent causes. The upheaval of social life produced by the Crusades to rescue the tomb of the dead Saviour produced the living Saviour of civilization,—Industry. The growth of commerce and industrial arts following wider social intercourse instituted vast economic changes in society, by which free labor became much more valuable than slave labor, and it was not until these changes that slavery began to give place to the present system. The influence of Christianity before, during, and after the change was ever allied with personal profit.
It seems strange that emancipation from slavery should be claimed as an effect of Christian influences in the light of history. Even in our own generation we have seen slavery existing in America, defended from Christian pulpits, and the friends of abolition branded as heretics. The sole effect Christianity has had upon the slaveholder is, I believe, that illustrated in these lines:
The supercargo, Mynheer Van Dunck,
In his cabin sits, adding his figures;
He calculates the cargo’s amount,
And the probable gain from his niggers.
”Six hundred niggers I bought dirt cheap,
Where the Senegal river is flowing,
Their flesh is firm, and their sinews tough
As the finest iron going.
If only three hundred niggers are left
When I get to Rio Janeiro,
I shall have a hundred ducats a head
From the house of Gonzales Ferreiro.
For Christ’s dear sake, O spare, good Lord,
The lives of these swarthy sinners;
O spare their lives for Christ’s dear sake,
Who died for our salvation;
For unless I have left three hundred head,
There’s an end of my occupation.”
Let us now resume our seven-league boots and run rapidly through the history of mediaeval Europe to note the progress of Christian Cæsarism to the zenith of its power. Temporarily checked by the infusion of Teutonic-individualism, it was now nearing its final triumph.
In the East Christianity had virtually ceased to exist. The Romans and Vandals had depopulated the southern shore of the Mediterranean. Although Justinian, in the sixth century, reconquered Africa, the losses inflicted by war, pestilence, and famine—estimated at the astounding number of one hundred million lives—were too great to heal, and Africa was lost to Christendom. Arianism was trampled out, but civilization was involved in its downfall. In the following century, the Persians wrested Syria from the Christian fold. Magianism flourished where once its followers were said to have worshipped the infant Christ. In every case the ruin of Christian hope had been accomplished by the treachery of Christian believers; those whom Rome adjudged heretics sweetened their fate with such consolation as revenge could bestow. In the words of Dr. Draper:
The Magian fire had burnt the sepulchre of Christ and the churches of Constantine and Helena; the costly gifts of the piety of three centuries were gone into the possession of the Persian and the Jew. Never again was it possible that faith could be restored. They who had devoutly expected that the earth would open, the lightning descend, or sudden death arrest the sacrilegious invader of the holy places, and had seen that nothing of the kind ensued, dropped at once into dismal disbelief. Asia and Africa were already morally lost. The cimeter of the Arabian soon cut the remaining tie.
The Moslem infidel worshipped God where the Mother of God had been adored by Christian piety. Carthage, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch, had ceased to be Christian bishoprics. Constantinople remained, but shorn of its prestige. Rome alone could wield the power it had so long and unceasingly claimed; but, divorced from the Orient, the battle was to be waged under Western influences. But even Rome needed allies. Her great designs for the extension of Imperialism required an arm of flesh to attain execution. At her doors lay the rapidly growing Lombard State, standing alone in the possession of settled government, with strength and valor to maintain it. What might have been had Christianity sought shelter under Lombard protection cannot be told; what has been is indelibly inscribed in centuries of Caesarian persecution and rule. The systematic development of the Messianic claim could seek shelter only for the purpose of attaining domination. There was an implacable antipathy between the Roman and the Lombard; but it is not an inexplicable one to those who study the logic of these facts, and see in this struggle between the Roman and the Teuton the great historic contest between Authority and Liberty.
In the West France alone seemed equal to the task. The alliance we have seen entered into made them friends. The work begun by the monks in Germany was bearing fruit, though its cultivation was yet to require thirty years of bloodshed. Henceforth France was to be the eldest son of the Church. Unfortunately for the pious fame of Charles Martel, he had laid hands upon the territory of the Church to replenish the treasury, which wars against the enemies of the Church had emptied. The haughty ecclesiastics denounced him as a pagan; later, St. Eucherius, of holy fame, had the pious satisfaction of seeing him “delivered over to the torments of the damned in the lowest regions of hell.” The pope pathetically entreated the aid of Charles to expel the hated Lombard; but what Charles had been unwilling to undertake, his son was zealous to perform. But favors sought require favors in return. Pepin resolved to seize Time by the forelock. The Merovingian line of fainéant kings had long been puppets in the hands of the powerful mayors of the palace. What even Charles had hesitated to do, Pepin determined to accomplish. To usurp the throne was easy; to hold it he sought the papal consecration. He sent an embassy to Pope Zacharias to inquire: “Whether it was better that one who wielded no authority in the land should retain the name of king, or that it should be transferred to him who really exercised the royal power?” Zacharias answered: “He should be called king who had the proper wisdom and power for the office, and not he who was king only in name.” In future ages Napoleon would plead the same reason for his usurpation: Les carrieres aux talents. How ecclesiastics regarded the matter we find recorded in these words: “Zacharias, by his Apostolic authority, ordered Pepin to be made king.” Pepin called himself the Defender of the Holy Roman Church by divine appointment, and was confirmed in his succession for all time under penalty of interdict and excommunication, without regard to either wisdom or power. France gained the Carloviugian dynasty; Rome gained a pregnant precedent beside the needed aid. Pepin waged two campaigns in Lombardy, and was successful in destroying their rule at the Battle of Paria. He bestowed upon the pope the extensive territory which, with but few changes, has since constituted the States of the Church. The pope became a temporal prince; he had been raised from temporal impotence to rank with the kings of earth. Henceforth society, says Guizot, “was impelled into a route which tended to make royalty prevail in the civil order, and papacy in the religious order.”
Is it strange that the Lombard bishop, Luitpraud, should have said: “The Lombards, Saxons, Franks, Lorrainers, Bavarians, Sueves, Burgunds, comprehend in that one name of Roman whatever is ignoble, cowardly, avaricious, luxurious, false,—in a word, every vice”? As well expect figs from thistles as look for other fruit from the Messianic seed; planted in Roman soil, it became subject to the Roman genius. In the words of Dean Milman:
Christianity has now assumed the complete power, not only of the life to come, but of the present life, with all its temporal advantages. It now leagues itself with barbarians, not to soften, to civilize, to imbue with devotion, to lead to Christian worship: but to give victory in all their ruthless wars, to confer the blessings of heaven on all their schemes of ambition and conquest. The one title to eternal life is obedience to the Church The supreme obligation of man is the protection and enlargement of her domain. By zeal in this cause, without any other moral or religious qualification, the most bloody and brutal soldier is a saint in heaven.
We have dwelt upon the antecedents which led to the battle of Paria, because it was the death knell for centuries to Liberty. Order based on progress gave place to order based on authority. The Teutonic spirit would survive in secret to incite local insurrections, but long ages were to pass before it could safely face its foe. But not yet is the triumph complete; not yet has Caesarism attained its highest degree of grandeur.
Pepin’s son, Charlemagne, united the West into one kingdom and received from the pope (A. D. 800) the extinct title of Roman emperor. The alliance between State and Church continued. Pope Hadrian, in a tone of feudal lordship, addresses Charlemagne in these words: “As your men are not allowed to come to Rome without your permission and special letters, so my men must not be allowed to appear at the Court of the Franks without the same credentials from me.”
Although as emperor Charlemagne held and exercised feudal sovereignty over the clergy, who held their estates on the same tenure as the secular nobility, their real power was rather increased than curtailed. The great prelates still added acre to acre by the most unscrupulous means, and rose into an ecclesiastical aristocracy parallel to that of the secular nobility. Charlemagne’s death removed the strong hand from the sword of the State; Louis the Pious became heir to the Empire, but not to the genius of his father. The tendency of events was now to the increase of clerical, not secular, power. An effort to reform abuses precipitated the conflict, and through the aid of the bishops Louis was degraded from his royal estate. The old Teutonic usage of division of power among sons prevailed over that of Roman unity. The Empire fell to pieces and disappeared as a unity, but there remained three facts of prime importance: 1, the foundation of feudalism was laid, the subordination of man to land, involving secular duties as well as rights; 2, the rise of nationalities, in which the Teutonic spirit was to find its cradle, and from which was to come in time the destruction of Roman unity; 3, for the time being, increase of papal power over the temporal sovereign.
Pepin had prostrated himself at the feet of Pope Stephen II., and had humbly walked beside his palfrey. Rome had given him a royal crown, and, in giving the imperial crown to his son, the world saw a papal gift. Legally, the only claim to imperial authority resided in the Eastern emperor, to whose predecessor had been sent the crown and insignia of authority upon the downfall of the Western division in the year 476. Charlemagne’s title, therefore, was founded on the right of the pope to bestow, or it was simply an usurpation. But with the right to grant, was there not also connected the right to deprive? “The Church,” says Hallam, “had tasted the pleasure of trampling upon crowned heads, and was eager to repeat the experiment.” Kings were boldly enjoined that they were not exempt from that general obedience laid upon all men by the Apostle. The councils of the Church were occupied with discussing the adulterous relations of sovereigns, which rendered them suppliants. The strife between secular and clerical power continued all through the ninth century; the bishops ever gaining ground and Rome retaining its hereditary haughty attitude. Nicholas I., Hadrian II., John VIII. were as bold in their claims of absolutism as any of the later popes. Danger from the dreaded Saracens who were already invading Italy, or the contumacious attitude of Gallican bishops, could not bend the spirit of the Vicar of Christ. No pope has ever been more prolific with interdicts and excommunications than John VIII. In the year 887 the last vestige of the Carlovingian Empire disappeared; Rome remained the sole representative of unity. Hallam says: “It seemed as if Europe was about to pass under as absolute a domination of the hierarchy as had been exercised by the priesthood of ancient Egypt or the druids of Gaul.”
The tenth century is the midnight hour of the Dark Ages, the blackest period in the history of every Christian country. Europe was divided into petty provinces. Baron kings waged war on each other, and the people, herded like cattle, were the prey of all. The only ray of intellectual light which penetrated the darkness of Caesarian rule was that reflected from the Moorish cities in Spain. Buckle says:
In the whole period from the sixth to the tenth centuries there were not in all Europe more than three or four men who dared to think for themselves; and even they were obliged to veil their meaning in obscure and mystical language. The remaining part of society was, during these four centuries, sunk in the most degrading ignorance. Under these circumstances the few who were able to read confined their studies to works which encouraged and strengthened their superstition, such as the legends of the saints and the homilies of the fathers. From these sources they drew their lying and impudent fables, of which the theology of that time is principally composed. These miserable stories were widely circulated, and were valued as solid and important truths. The more the literature was read, the more the stories were believed; in other words, the greater the learning, the greater the ignorance. And I entertain no doubt that, if all knowledge of the alphabet had for a time been lost, so that men could no longer read the books in which they delighted, the subsequent progress of Europe would have been more rapid than it really was. For, when the progress began, its principal antagonist was that credulity which the literature had fostered. There was the literature of Greece and Rome, which the monks not only preserved, but even occasionally looked into and copied. But what could that avail such readers as they? So far from recognizing the merit of the ancient writers, they were unable to feel even the beauties of their style, and trembled at the boldness of their inquiries. At the first glimpse of the light their eyes were blinded. They never turned the leaves of a pagan author without standing aghast at the risk they were running; and they were in constant fear lest, by imbibing any of their opinions, they should involve themselves in a deadly sin. The result was that they willingly laid aside the great masterpieces of antiquity; and in their place they substituted those wretched compilations which corrupted their taste, increased their credulity, strengthened their errors, and prolonged the ignorance of Europe, by embodying each separate superstition in a written and accessible form, thus perpetuating its influence, and enabling it to enfeeble the understanding even of a distant posterity.
In England, while the Danes were ravaging the country at once on every coast and in the interior, the secular and regular clergy were bitterly wrangling among themselves. In Spain the Saracens held the greater part of the country. In France the Normans were plundering the provinces, and the clergy devoted to increasing wealth wrung from unrequited toil. Italy had entered upon its “Iron Age,” its princes arrayed against each other. Germany alone was rising into form, and contending, with Italy, to preserve the fiction of the Holy Roman Empire. Christian Rome during this century entered upon its lowest depth of degradation. Popes succeeded each other only to be known for their vices and crimes. Sometimes but weeks or months in possession of the coveted tiara, to be hurled from the Apostolic throne by open revolt or treachery. In the four years preceding the opening of the tenth century, five popes had been consecrated. In 904 Leo V., in less than two months of his succession, was thrown into prison by one of his chaplains, who was, in turn, replaced by Sergius IV., who, after seven years of exile, became pontiff of the Church and the criminal lover of the celebrated prostitute, Theodora, a love shared by another, who in 915 became pope as John X. The power of Theodora kept Sergius in power for fourteen years, but he was finally overthrown, imprisoned, and murdered, by the intrigues of her daughter, Marozia. After a brief interval, she raised her son to the Holy See (and son of Pope Sergius) under the name of John XI. His brother threw him and his mother into prison, and four of his puppets followed each other as popes. Then came John XII., a grandson of the amorous Marozia, in 956, who was charged by a council of bishops with adultery, incest, with having made the Lateran a brothel, with murders, with having put out the eyes of one ecclesiastic and castrating another, besides other offences. In 963 he was deposed, but, again reinstated, his career of vengeance on his opposers was brought to an end in 965 by the poniard of an outraged husband. John XIII. had hardly assumed the pontificate before his haughtiness created a revolt, and he was driven from the city; he was subsequently reinstated, but in 972 was strangled in prison. His successor met the same fate. Another descendant of the celebrated Marozia became pope, after another had seized the office as the price of the murder of two popes (Benedict VII.), who, finding it impossible to retain his position, fled with the sacred vessels of the church of St. Peter. But in 983 he returns, seizes the throne again, and murders John XIV. in prison. On his death his corpse was dragged through the city by the populace. The consul of Rome, a grandson of the infamous Theodora and’ Pope John X., drove John XV. from the city, but he was reinstated by the emperor, Otho III.
The Germans cried loudly for reform. Too intensely Catholic to revolt, they preserved their old pagan love for chastity and hatred for debauchery and lust. The emperor tried in vain to stem the tide of Roman lasciviousness and crime by causing the election of a German pope. An anti-pope, John XVI., disputed the position with him, till seized by Otho, who put out his eyes, cut off his nose and tongue, and in this condition paraded him before the populace on an ass, with his face to the tail. The German enjoyed his triumph for a year, when he died from poison. He was followed in 999 by Silvester II., a graduate from the Mohammedan school of Cordova, and believed by his contemporaries to be a magician, wizard, and sorcerer. “In these deplorable days,” says Dr. Draper, “there was abundant reason to adopt the popular expectation that the end of all things was at hand, and that A. D. 1000 would witness the destruction of the world. Society was dissolving, the human race was disappearing, and with difficulty the melancholy ruins of ancient civilization could be traced. . . . Inaugurated in selfishness, it strengthens itself by violence, is perpetuated by ignorance, and yields, as its inevitable result, social ruin.”
The belief that the end of the world was at hand but increased the appalling misery endured by the people, who, in some quarters, were actually feeding on human flesh! Wealth and lands flowed into the treasury of the church to a fabulous amount to secure ghostly privileges.
The eleventh century opens. Great as was the genius of Silvester II., he could not arrest the downward tendency. After four years’ pontificate, he too fell a victim to the wiles of the poisoner. In the ensuing forty years nine popes succeed each other, all of them obscure save one, Benedict IX., “a boy not more than ten or twelve years old,” whose subsequent shameless life has given him greater fame. Says Milman:
For twelve years Benedict IX., under the protection of his powerful kindred, ruled in Borne (1033—1045), in the words of one of his successors, Victor III., leading a life so shameful, so foul and execrable, that he shuddered to describe it. He ruled like a captain of banditti rather than a prelate. Adulteries, homicides perpetrated by his own hand, passed unnoticed, unrevenged.
At last, finding his career run, he put up the Holy Apostolic succession to auction and knocked it down to the highest bidder, a presbyter, John, who became Gregory VI. And Christendom now saw the strange spectacle of three popes, each claiming to be the only original successor of Peter, and mutually anathematizing each other in the name of Christ.
But this long career of profligacy and vice was not unproductive of results. Through the power of the emperor, German integrity at last won its way to the tiara, and the inevitable ruin was stayed. Clerical immorality had shocked Europe. The human element in Christianity, the spirit of Jesus, called the spirit of Christ to account. Here is a fact of great importance. The individualism of the barbarian had been unconsciously modified by social interrelations; the human spirit of the gospels, the voice of nature, had silently operated on his character, and divine authority was asserted to be powerless over social morality. A thousand years had passed since the Messianic claim had been enunciated in Palestine, and a degradation more deep, and an ignorance more dense, than that which ruined the ancient city, had fallen on its Christian successor. The possession of authority by man over man had again worked out the result so often repeated in man’s martyrdom. Rome still claimed to be the City of God, though far different from the visioned one seen by Augustine. The increasing solidarity of peoples; the evolution, slow but steady, of a more complex social life, involving the recognition of social duties; the gradual infusion into the social web of the new element brought in by the Teuton conquerors, individual rights,—these were active causes to awaken Europe from its long lethargy.
Christ had not come! Reaction inevitably set in. The seed of intellectual awakening, wafted over the Pyrenees, began to find root in secret places in the sturdy North. In morals it made its first appearance and openly demanded reform. While the bewildered intellect struggled to assert itself in the wild mazes of Scholasticism, morality declaimed aloud against the prevalent vices. It was not the submissive voice of the gospels, not the restoration of Christian morality from long slumber, but the beginning of an awakening of the human mind. The Latin nations, in which Christianity had been longest prevalent, were silent. The demand, the cry of the new spirit, came from the North, from those who had latest embraced the Christian belief. It was the voice of humanity protesting against Cæsarism in such dumb fashion as it could.
In 1073 the great Hildebrand became pope under the name of Gregory VII., and the great strife which had hitherto smouldered was to break out in open light. Papal degeneration had been stayed; the respect of Christendom had been secured; heresy, in fact, controversy itself, may be said to have been stamped out; the awful sanctity of the clergy had been more deeply impressed on the mind by the blameless lives of the German popes; the establishment of the feudal system predisposed men to accept the theory of a spiritual Headship, clothed with authority over his vassals. All that seemed wanting to perfect the claim of Christian autocracy in the person of the pope was statesmanlike genius and daring. In Gregory VII. lay the genius to perceive the occasion, and the daring spirit to attempt the execution of his plans. The ostensible objects he sought to overturn—simony and the marriage of the clergy—were but opportunities for asserting the traditional policy of pagan and Christian Rome. The German emperor, Henry VI., holding the most respected throne in Europe; with a glittering court and surrounded by rich and powerful feudal lords, sovereign over their respective estates; at the head of a great army held to his service by ties of feudal suzerainty; successor of Charlemagne, and of the Caesars to whom the Apostles paid passive obedience,—claimed the hereditary right as feudal lord and Roman Emperor to name the pope who was to wield the authority of St. Peter.
It may seem at first glance a strange claim for the emperor, intent on maintaining what he regarded as imperial rights, inherent in the divine right pertaining to the imperial crown, as the champion of Teutonic liberty against Roman authority. Yet this great struggle was here waged. But the spirit of liberty inherent in the Teuton character had been cramped by institutions; one by one its limbs had been compressed within the vice of ecclesiasticism. Its only form of open opposition could come from their kings; that is to say, the old spirit of protest to oppression could only find imperfect voice in the sole channel left for its expression, its national representative. Victorious here, it would not be long before he, as the custodian of instituted authority, would also have heard its voice. As this is one of the great turning points in history, we may well pause to glance at the situation.
The time had not come! The spiritual thunder of the pope was more deadly than Henry’s sword. Nor could the Empire, ostensibly so great, command a sufficient force to maintain his claims. The Empire was but a feudal combination of separate principalities. Feudal disintegration, by weakening central authority, was laying the foundation for future liberty. Already Saxony, under its prelate princes, was in open revolt, and had destroyed an imperial fortress deemed impregnable. The individualism so inherent in the Teuton character found its expression in petty nationalities, and the unity of the Empire was but in an illusory title. Each new emperor obtained recognition of suzerainty by the extorted concessions of further local rights. Henry was young and pressed by an avaricious aristocracy; Gregory was mature in years and statesmanship.
The avowed objects of reform insisted upon so strongly by Rome were so pressed that, while they established the autocratic claims of the papacy, they won the approval of the common people. Simony, the sale of ecclesiastical benefices, was the legitimate consequence of the inordinate wealth of the clergy in a feudal age. The possession of wealth, no matter what form of government prevails, entails power. Government, whether autocratic, limited monarchy, democratic, or communistic, is in every case the expression of those who hold the means that confer power. Spiritual preferment and landed wealth could not be separated. As proprietor, the possessor became liege of the sovereign; could the sovereign abdicate his right to confer these feudal dignities? Says Milman:
Charlemagne himself had set the example of advancing his natural sons to high ecclesiastical dignities. His feebler descendants, even the more pious, submitted to the same course from choice or necessity. The evil worked downward. The bishop, who had bought his see, indemnified himself by selling the inferior prebends or cure. What was so intrinsically valuable began to have its money price; it became an object of barter and sale. The layman who bought holy orders bought usually peace, security of life, comparative ease. Those who aspired to higher dignities soon repaid themselves for the outlay, however large and extortionate.
Popes and councils had for centuries denounced the practice; not for the purpose of curbing aristocratic privilege, but because it weakened the church by a divided allegiance. Gregory saw his opportunity in Henry’s weakness, and in the interest of Cæsarism resolved to strike at the fountain head of the evil,—civil investiture.
The question of the married clergy in no less degree was directly concerned with Roman supremacy. Marriage not only introduced domestic ties, which weakened the supreme claim to undivided allegiance and implicit obedience to orders, and thereby gave emphasis to the voice of nature, but, by establishing through descent an hereditary aristocracy, deprived the church of its direct claim on the incumbents of its offices. The clerical, like the lay, nobility would become an exclusive caste, and, like them again in possessing hereditary privilege, would be tempted to struggle against their superiors. It was the introduction of feudal strife in the one indivisible church.
The Saxon bishops were beside themselves with rage. “The pope must be a heretic,” they said in synod at Erfurt, “or a madman. Has he forgotten the saying of the Lord? All cannot fulfil his word. The apostle says, ‘Let him that cannot contain marry.’ He would compel all men to live like angels. Let him take care, while he would do no violence to nature, he break not all the bonds which restrain from fornication and every uncleanness. They had rather abandon their priesthood than their wives, and then let the pope, who thought men too groveling for him, see if he can find angels to govern the church.” The old pagan spirit still moved in Saxon hearts, and would yet be heard again!
The reform instituted against moral degradation by Gregory’s predecessors had found its support in the monks. They were the “angels” upon whom Rome could always rely. Says Michelet: “Ever since the tempest of the barbaric invasion, the world had taken refuge in the church and sullied it; the church took refuge with the monks; that is to say, with the severest and most practical,” as well as the legitimate inheritors of the “primitive, pure, and undefiled” doctrine of passive obedience. Against both State supremacy and prelatical privilege Gregory boldly appealed to the people.
The people! The down-trodden millions, oppressed and plundered by both prince and prelate, were now called upon to sit in judgment on their masters. Dangerous precedent! the effect of which was to outlast the temporary urgency. The proud prelate at home was hated for his rapacity, for his relentless cruelty and extortion, for his life of luxury won from the sweat of his plundered people; the proud prelate at Rome was lost to view in the brightness of St. Peter, or visible only in the Apostolic halo. At home was ruin and death; at Rome all and every hope that reached their darkened minds. Their hatred and wrath excited by the fierce preaching of the monks, they rose in fury and tore the astonished bishops from their very altars. In the words of the poetic Michelet:
A brutal levelling instinct made them delight in outraging all that they had adored, in trampling under foot those whose feet they had kissed, in tearing the alb, in dashing to pieces the mitre. The priests were beaten, cuffed, and mutilated in their own cathedrals; their consecrated wines were drunk, and the host scattered about. The monks pushed on and preached. The people became impregned with a bold mysticism, and habituated to despise form and dash it to pieces, as if to set the spirit free. This revolutionary purification of the church shook it to the foundation.
Cæsarism triumphed. The danger which had threatened the claim of unity and headship was overcome. Gregory had found his “angels” to enforce subjection. On a January morning in the year 1077, in a winter of unprecedented severity, with the ground deep in snow, the State, in the person of Henry IV., stands alone in the courtyard of the castle of Canosa, where the victorious wielder of Rome’s traditional policy was the honored guest of his protectress, Countess Matilda of Tuscany. No knightly armor or royal sword now distinguished the humble suppliant. Clad only in the thin, white dress of the penitent, and fasting, he stood there, humbly awaiting the pleasure of the pope. A second and a third day passed, and the gates did not open; cold, hungry, agitated with alluring hopes and bitter reflections, the unsheltered head of God’s Anointed bows in suppliant petition for permission to abase himself.
Christianity had triumphed. The might of the pagan Caesar had been sustained by his legions, and his pleasures guarded by praetorian guards; the might of the Christian Caesar had been sustained by a papal bull, and its efficacy secured by the sermons of monks. He who had so boldy claimed the right to sit in judgment over all men, when “before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats,” was everywhere adored. The spirit of universal authority, sanctioned by revelation and thus making faith paramount to reason, planted in finite minds and thus made subject to the laws of social evolution, embraced and preserved by the practical genius of Rome and thus saved from the barrenness of Eastern speculation, had prevailed.
Unity had been restored at home; it must be extended abroad. The infidel Saracen held possession of the tomb of Christ, and the glory of his triumphant church demanded his expulsion from the sacred soil divine feet had trod. We are on the eve of the crusades—and the dawn of progress. Twenty years from the scene of Henry’s humiliation at Canosa, Europe was ringing with the fiery cry of Peter the Hermit to redeem the Holy Land. We cannot enter into the history of that period. The Crusades were apparently to unite still stronger the interests of Europe with those of Rome. Wealth, power, influence, the triune support of the authority of man over man, centred in the church. All Europe recognized in the pope their commander-in-chief. He possessed in all its extent the power “to bind and to loose,” and had carried out the excommunication pronounced by Christ: “If he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen and a publican.”
But the changes we have already noted were silently at work. In 1009 Jerusalem was captured, and the twelfth century opened a new epoch. More than half a million men died in the first crusade. A second and a third followed. To meet the expense domains were thrown into the market and changed hands. The humble serf of the glebe, who had wearily plodded in the path his father and his ancestors had worn, without hope or knowledge of what lay beyond the narrow boundaries which held him, now was offered freedom by donning the cross. If he returned from the East, the witness of varied scenes and modes of life, he was no longer the simple Jacques Bonhomme of the past. Commerce received an immense impetus by the opening of the East. Luxuries and arts hitherto unknown in Christendom, which Draper compares with modern Caffraria, began to gain ground. The Jews introduced bills of credit from Lombardy, and thus facilitated exchange. The restless activity of the European peoples, which had hitherto found sole vent in personal warfare, found new fields in industrial warfare upon nature. Cities began to assume a new aspect. The counter of the merchant and the bench of the artisan developed a different attitude in their attendants than the shrines of saints. With the extension of commercial and industrial activity, the old forms could no longer hold the new spirit. Cæsarism had held its power by the free use of three agencies: 1, Power over conscience—obedience to spiritual authority; 2, Power over the body—submission to temporal authority; 3, Power over the means of life—subjection to economic privileges. Against all three the spirit of liberty we find henceforth insurgent; but, as the three formed a hierarchy in the order stated, the protests were often blind and futile, for all freedom was impossible while the mind was fettered. Towns revolted from baronial domination and became free cities. Saon, in France, won its charter in 1108. The communal revolution became general. Free cities abounded.
The triumph of Gregory VII. over Henry IV. brought more than unity; it instinctively forced royalty into alliance with the people to curb the power of feudal barons. Political unity necessarily became an ideal in changing social conditions; hence royalty struggling against insubordination from feudal lords eagerly granted charters to free cities from baronial claims. Intellectual activity, without which progress would have made a blind circuit, found expression in such thinkers as Roscelin and Abelard. From Spain had come the Aristotelian dialectics to weaken scholasticism. From the same source came the knowledge of gunpowder, which, later, was to revolutionize war by placing arms in the hands of the communal burgher. In the midst of this general awakening Jerusalem again passed into the hands of the Infidel,—the tomb of Christ was profaned by the horses of Moslem cavalry. The arm of the heavenly Caesar had not defended his own; legions of angels, looked for to aid the Holy Cause, had beat a retreat before the Crescent; the miracle-working relics of the saints lost their efficacy. Sismondi ascribes to “the geography of the pilgrims” the most influence in redeeming Europe. Let us not forget that the geography of the returning pilgrim was that of one who not only had traveled in distant lands, but who had seen his simple faith mocked by the logic of events!
The thirteenth century opened with preparations for a fourth crusade, which, however, stopped on its way to rifle and pillage the Greek-Christian city of Constantinople. In the sorrowful language of Pope Innocent: “They practised fornications, incests, adulteries, in the sight of men. They abandoned matrons and virgins, consecrated to God, to the lewdness of grooms. They lifted their hands against the treasures of the churches—what is more heinous, the very consecrated vessels—tearing the tablets of silver from the very altars, breaking in pieces the most sacred things, carrying off crosses and relics.” Yet, notwithstanding the Pope’s protest, he was content to divide with the Doge of Venice the spoils of this Christian city!
Heresy, that plough of the intellect, spread rapidly. The immorality of the clergy, the education of the crusades, the revival of thought, the extension of commercial relations, and the growing independence of industrial activity were all bearing fruit. In the political realm we find a constant centralization and disintegration-of feudal customs; in the ecclesiastical, a new effort toward reform in the establishment of the Dominican and Franciscan monks. In France we find Louis IX. organizing the trades of Paris into guilds; in England, the barons wresting Magna Charta from John.
Amid this social change the power of the papacy seemed unshaken. At the death of Innocent III., in 1216, the power of Rome had reached its utmost height. Boniface VIII., at the close of the century, may have been more exorbitant in pretension and violent in his measures, but the reaction had already begun. Henceforward the history of Europe is the story of Liberty. Of this century Milmau writes:
The essential inherent supremacy of the spiritual over the temporal power, as of the soul over the body, as of eternity over time, as of Christ over Caesar, as of God over man, was now an integral part of Christianity. There was a shuddering sense of impiety in all resistance to this ever-present rule; it required either the utmost strength of mind, desperate courage, or desperate recklessness, to confront the fatal and undefined consequences of such resistance. . . . . Ideas obtain authority and dominion, not altogether from their intrinsic truth, but rather from asseveration, especially when they fall in with the common hopes and fears, the wants and necessities, of human nature.
Heresy in the south of France became so rampant that the arms of the crusaders had to be used to extirpate its inhabitants. But the revolt of the mind could not be stayed. Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, was calling the burghers of England into its first parliament. Flanders, through industry, was rising into commercial greatness, and already was exhibiting a certain degree of freedom and dangerous democratic tendencies. “Ah! happy Saladin,” cried Philip of France, when placed under an interdict, “he has no pope above him!” Troubadours with their love ditties were replacing the psalter; the knight vowed to his lady the devotion once bestowed on the Mother of God. Frederick II. of Germany almost openly manifested his contempt for Christianity; while the artisans of Lyons were giving voice to the heresy that the sanctity of a priest lay, not in his office, but in the manner of his life.
To meet the emergency the Holy Inquisition was called into being to make men’s minds fit the mental garments God was said to have cut and fashioned for the Roman slaves of Palestine in the first Christian century. Independent thought was to be exterminated. To prevent its birth the study of science was prohibited in the schools,—by Innocent III. in 1215, by Gregory XI. in 1231, and again by Clement IV. in 1265.
We have followed the rise of Cæsarism from the Rubicon, and seen it ever growing in strength, until we have reached its period of meridional grandeur in the thirteenth century,—a period called by Hallam “the noonday of papal dominion.” How much it has been the same spirit, whether in Caesar or Gregory VII., needs no summing up to make more clear; every page of history has been stamped with its seal, and the long martyrdom of man bears witness to its baneful effects. In now following its decline, let us bear in mind the hierarchy of powers resting on man, which we have described; and that revolt, to be successful, must begin at the head and proceed downward. To weaken an autocratic rule other powers must be arrayed against it, and such has been the course of progress. To crush Catholic Cæsarism progress allied itself with monarchic States; the Teuton spirit has never changed, though forming many different alliances, being always found warring against the spirit of authority of man over man.
The fourteenth century opened with a papal year of Jubilee at Rome,—a device to raise money. Every conquest made by Christian zeal in the Holy Land had been won back by Moslem valor. France was distracted by the heresy of “the Everlasting Gospel,”—that the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, was to succeed Christ. Philip le Bel followed the example of Edward I. of England and taxed the clergy. He was excommunicated. Nothing daunted, he dispatched trusty agents to Italy, who forced an entrance through a church, seized the Holy Vicar, placed him on a horse with his face to the tail, and led him off to prison. At last France triumphed; a pontiff to its mind, sold to execute France’s designs, was seated on the throne. He abandoned the tomb of the Apostles and took up his residence in the French city of Avignon.
Europe now saw (1310) the trial of a dead pope for sacrilege and atheism; the Knight Templars, the bulwark of Christian valor in the Crusades, disbanded, persecuted, and burnt at the stake; and, more distracting, two popes claiming to be the authoritative and consecrated successors of the Apostle. In this constant weakening of spiritual authority lay the hope of progress. While States were quarreling for the possession of the incumbent of the papacy, the people were growing restive. The three arms of power were attacked on all sides. In England the preaching of Wickliffe had sapped church authority, and the bold language of Wat Tyler fired the hearts of the peasants with dreams of economic emancipation. In Flanders the Arteveldes voiced the growing demand for political independence. In Rome itself Rienzi arouses the half-forgotten tradition of Roman freedom. Switzerland, the home of the legendary William Tell, with its free mountain air, strikes off its chains. France, torn with the conflict with England, answers with the fierce cry of the Jacquerie, and rustic hands drop their rosaries and beads for flails and scythes. In Germany the Hanseatic League rises into prominence to control the commerce of the Baltic, as the Genoese and Venetians did the Mediterranean. Though formed in the preceding century, it now entered upon ks highest claims,—embracing eighty-five cities, banded together in offensive and defensive alliance for industrial and commercial interests.
Along the course of the ages the centuries now first loom up with distinctive characteristics; the mile-stones of the centuries present their separate legend. The fourteenth century is the Age of Revolt. While popes and kings are disputing over the reins of authority, a new spirit is spreading throughout Europe.
The fifteenth century opens on the same territorial divisions, but not on the same peoples. The heresy of Wickliffe had penetrated the higher classes; England was honeycombed with unbelief. John Huss and Jerome of Prague were electrifying the people of Bavaria with new and startling thoughts. Industrial activity had undermined feudal privilege; the modern State was arising. In the middle of the century a man in a German city was experimenting with movable types; printing had been invented! But Dryasdust, with eyes ever fastened on royal courts and battlefields, has taken another date for the end of the Mediaeval Age and the beginning of Modern History. In 1453 the Turks captured Constantinople, the seat of the Eastern Roman Empire. Yet the two events were closely connected. The downfall of Constantinople sent into Italy the long buried literature of Greece and Rome, preserved in its dusty archives. The art of Gutenberg and Faust scattered it broadcast. From 1470 to 1500 more than ten thousand editions of books and pamphlets were printed. Printing had brought minds into closer relations. In its effects it cheapened literature, supplanted the pulpit as its sole organ, and with the increased facility for acquiring knowledge grew the desire.
The impetus now given could no longer be stayed; the dykes were broken! The fifteenth century will be forever known as the Age of the Renaissance. Travelers had returned from Persia and India, China and Thibet. In 1455 Cadamosto, a Venetian, had explored the west coast of Africa, and before the close of the century. Columbus had sailed to America. Nor were the people wanting in catching the new spirit. In Germany, ever from the Teuton stock, peasants find new and strange thoughts burning in their minds. In 1470 “Johnny the Piper” lights the towers of baronial castles with the reflection of the flames of the Peasants’ War, proclaiming the quixotic cry of Equal Rights. Thirty-four thousand peasants support him, but, through the effort of a pious bishop, who, as we are informed, “had to resort to treachery,” their leader was sacrificed. Again, in 1493, the year after the discovery of America, Germany beheld another social insurrection. The banner of the Bundschuh had been raised, and ever and again made its appearance till subsequently stamped out by Luther and his armed allies.
The discovery of America, while Erasmus, Colet, and More were sowing the seed of intellectual liberty, hastened the harvest. Economically, it shifted the commercial centre from Italian cities to the Atlantic coast, and opened a new world to adventure and enterprise. Politically, the Western States rose in greatness, and, hopeful sign, royal power was to be greatest where industrialism had prepared the people best for independent action. Intellectually, it revolutionized human ideas by demonstrating the existence of the antipodes. The thought that by sailing West one could reach the East, when Columbus sailed, was the Idea of one man. When he returned, the sacred cosmogony perished. The famous argument of the church against the globular form of the earth—that all men would not be able to see Christ when he descended in clouds from heaven to judge the world—was forever exploded!
Fifteen centuries had rolled by, fifteen Christian centuries, in which stake and fagot, sword and axe, had struggled for the supremacy of Christian authority over human reason; and now for the first time the Age of Reason could discern the coming dawn. In governments diplomacy now arose; secular politics came to the front, thus heralding the decline of Roman power. The old dream of Christian unity was perishing with the faith that gave it birth. Thought was released from bondage to Aquinas and the Schoolmen. A text no longer settled intellectual truth. The word renaissance—the legend of the age—separates it from all of its predecessors, and opens to the mind intellectual Anarchy,—freedom from bondage in philosophical pursuits!
The sixteenth century bears evidence that the old bottles can no longer hold the new wine. The fermentation of mind is not content to rest within the bounds of philosophical disputation. We need not ask the inscription on the mile-stone of the age. The logical sequence of intellectual liberty finds its assertion in the age in which Luther lived,—liberty of private judgment in religion. “The egg which Erasmus laid, Luther hatched,” say church authorities. Rather, let us say, the enlargement of mind, dating back to “the geography of the pilgrims,” now broke the narrowing bounds in which it had been confined. Revolt was no new thing. As we have seen, the Protest had broken out in the thirteenth century with the Albigenses of France, in the fourteenth with the Lollards, and in the fifteenth with Huss and Jerome. Luther was successful not alone because three centuries of growing restlessness lay behind him, not alone because the renaissance had weakened faith. He was a Teuton, a Saxon; he inherited the barbarian individuality which had proved so potent a factor in the disintegration of the old civilization where manhood was sunk in the State. Again, in his warfare on spiritual authority he made an ally of temporal power. He dexterously excited the jealousy of the feudal princes of Germany against Roman unity, as Calvin subsequently allied his cause with the retrograde policy of French seigniors against French unity.
Protestantism carried on the work of the new spirit of revolt against authority. Although the narrow liberty of the barbarian, where self excludes toleration of others’ equal right, divine authority received a fatal blow. The right of private judgment, said the Catholics, destroyed all unity; there would be as many sects as thinkers. Bossuet was right: it was religious Anarchy. Freedom of conscience had taken root in the world.
The seventeenth century opens with the death at the stake of the freethinker and scientist, Giordano Bruno, and closed with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Yet authority over mind was everywhere weakening. Freedom in thought led logically to freedom in action. The revolt against authority was the same; the seeming change was in the representative of the authoritarian claim. In the preceding century Charles V. and Philip II. had been devoted supporters of the papal claim, yet both recognized the new spirit so far as to ever subordinate the welfare of Rome to the aggrandizement of their own power. Even in the rise of the Catholic State, Catholic unity was endangered. Of the sack of Rome by the army of Charles V., Dr. Robertson says:
Rome, though taken several times by the Northern nations, who overran the Empire in the fifth and sixth centuries, was never treated with so much cruelty by the barbarous and heathen Huns, Vandals, and Goths, as now by the bigoted subjects of a Catholic monarch.
The seat of authority was changing, and the monarch sought to control mind. Hence, political authority over conscience was attacked: in England, in the person of the king; in France and Germany, in feudal barons. When the century opened, to doubt the right of the sovereign to enforce uniformity of belief was as great a heresy with Protestants as with Catholics. The English Monarch was the Head of the English Church, and the English Revolution turned on religious questions. But the seventeenth century witnessed the destruction of this principle by giving birth to toleration. Again Liberty had extended her domain; the feudal principle of liberty for self was followed by the recognition of liberty for others. The treaty of Westphalia, at the end of the Thirty Years’ War, recognized Protestant countries; William of Orange proclaimed official recognition of individual dissent. The spirit of the sixteenth century had won; religious freedom, wrested from the Church, was now secured against control by the State. The idea had taken visible form and was become a tangible reality.
The eighteenth century takes in the death of Locke and the life of Rousseau. From the “Treatise on Toleration” to the “Contrat Social” is the passage from the seventeenth to the eighteenth century. Toleration was not enough; limitation of political authority by constitutional restrictions no longer sufficed. The fundamental question of each age has been the same,—personal freedom or authority? The authority of the king to rule was now directly questioned. Freedom of thought in philosophy and religion had obtained foothold; the mediaeval Impossibility had been realized. Toleration by the State of various beliefs had been established, notwithstanding sporadic displays of persecution. The line of progress brought it in revolt before the throne.
I am aware that worshippers at the shrine of the commonplace will retort that the cry for political freedom would not have been raised but for the tyrannical use of power by kings. Precisely; but this alleged mis-government—the arbitrary use of force to control action by those invested with authority—is a constant factor in the problem. Historically, evolution leads to revolution. The theological tomes of the seventeenth century were forgotten in the burning words of Junius, Paine, and Rousseau. While Americans were proclaiming independence from royal control, and were defeating the royal troops, Spain was witnessing its last auto-de-fe”. Even into that bigoted land the reflection from Liberty’s torch dispersed the darkness of mediaeval thought. The French Revolution broke down all barriers and opened a new era to Humanity.
Here the Christian centuries end. The spirit of the Christ recedes; that of Man emerges. Though thrones are still propped on bayonets, the spectre of the Sansculotte is never laid.
Freedom of thought in religion and freedom of action in politics were conceded in principle; liberty for thought and political action had fought their battle and been victorious. Priestly and royal authority were dethroned. Heresy no longer carried with it sanguinary terror. What had once been treason to God was now a prerogative of self. The old beliefs may be still held, but they are powerless to enforce their claims. In the triumph of individuality, divine authority has no longer an accepted organ; it has become dissipated, and man left free. The authority of the Church has found the rock on which it was built washed away by the waves of progress. Its Christ, the Son of the Living God, having power to bind and loose, has faded away into a metaphysical entity. To the devout believer of the sixteenth century mental freedom was religious anarchy, the destruction of spiritual law and order. To the mediaeval statesman, it was an unthinkable condition, and the dissolution of all moral and social bonds. Society was based on theoretic uniformity, and hence the early reformers sought in the name of authority to reform, not to destroy; they thought they were but pruning the branches, while they were tapping the trunk. Spiritual authority was a social growth; it could not be pruned away without involving social disintegration and decay. Posterity has justified the assertion that the right of private judgment is mental anarchy. ‘
Mental An-archy, the absence of government over thought from without, was the result, yet this Anarchy is hailed today as a priceless conquest. The triumph of individuality in the State has followed the same course,—the extension of personal liberty. The hand of the absolute monarch has grown palsied, and the sceptre trembles in his grasp. Where the king willed, public opinion rules. Rulers have become servants to the national will; they hold their authority no longer by the grace of God, but by the sufferance of the people. When the head of Louis XVI. rolled on the guillotine, to the Bourbon political anarchy seemed to be complete. On the contrary, the State remained, and the battle for uniformity was as fiercely waged, but it had shrunk to national unity. The old law and order passed away, but out of the social anarchy arose a higher order,—a new extension of freedom. The right of private judgment in the affairs of government! God’s anointed henceforth was of common clay; his sword and sceptre, blessed by the priest, possessed no magic virtues. The illusion had vanished.
What is the spirit of the nineteenth century? What further Anarchy—or, in other words, what further restriction of authority and extension of individual freedom—is there to be won? Our century inherited the achievements of its predecessors. Mental freedom existed. True, it was denied here and there, but the enemy had been outflanked and the future was secure. Universal manhood suffrage was in its hand. What more was left to be striven for? With religious and political freedom attained, was progress henceforth to be merely along these lines, without opening into yet wider and unknown fields? Were individual rights to find their guarantees in—extension of taxation? What new orbit for activity essential to human happiness can there be beyond those of religion and politics?
There is one that neither religious nor political methods have yet reached. Let us look a little closer at the line of progress followed in the past, and see if we cannot detect a path not yet emerged into the open ground of achieved result. In the rapid glance we have taken of the Christian centuries we have gained an insight into the meaning of history. We have seen that history is not a record of fortuitous events; there is a thread which may be followed through the web of events which makes progress a reality. The larger and more comprehensive our knowledge of the past, the better we are enabled to grasp the true relations of events and understand the present. Our ears are dinned with vociferous demands to do this or that, and the millennium will be achieved. Let us dismiss our pet panaceas from consideration. Let us interrogate the past; it is the womb of the present, and contains the germs of the future. We may discern the lines of progress, even if unable to distinguish the agencies by which they are to be accomplished. So far as we keep in those lines, we are on the path to victory, carried on by the momentum of the ages. So far as we depart from them, disaster and defeat will overtake us and overwhelm our projects.
We have seen from the crusades a constant extension of freedom. Let us now hastily resume the whole period of our study, and see the result. When Paul returned the fugitive slave, Onesimus, and preached absolute obedience to servants and wives, slavery everywhere prevailed. Aristotle had proclaimed it to be founded on natural law. Rome’s greatness was based on it. Yet slavery brought Rome’s downfall. The multiplicity of slaves rendered free labor worthless. Let us hasten on to the barbarian conquest. We have studied the forces brought into conflict in that seething crucible, Germanic individuality, which, in attempting to use Roman forms of government, gave birth to a new society founded on proprietorship in land. Slavery died out and serfdom arose. The laborer belonged to the land, he was attached to the glebe; he was no longer an individual chattel to be driven to and sold in the market. Historically, there was an undeniable progress; individually, his material condition was not much improved. His wife and children were his own; so, too, were their economic condition, which remained the same.
In slavery the master had to sustain life in his slave, or lose him. The minimum cost of subsistence therefore became a necessary expense to the master. In the slow process of evolution from slavery to serfdom, the principle of freedom made progress, but the rut of custom left this iron law of remuneration unchanged. The cost of subsistence remained the laborer’s share of the social product. The crusades enfranchised large numbers of serfs for their services. The tremendous impetus thus given to industry we have noted. Free labor increased. Industrial warfare was the direction now assumed by human activity. The military phase of human activity was passing away; society was seeking “structural adaptation to surrounding environments.” The peaceful pursuits of Industry were claiming the future for its own; for this end the Genius of Liberty became its guiding star. But still through all the centuries the iron law of remuneration remained unchanged. With inventions the power of labor was multiplied and the product increased. Comforts began to slowly descend through social layers down to the proletariat. In our century his standard of existence lias been struggling upward, notwithstanding the adverse influence of competition, which has tended to repress it to the old limit. The principle has remained unchanged, though a change has come in what constitutes subsistence. It no longer means black bread and chestnuts. The extension of freedom has raised the standard, though the iron law remains. Amelioration is never a remedy, though often its herald. Though increased freedom has benefited the proletaire, remember that its influence has been reflex, not direct. He warms himself by another’s hearth.
But can this be changed? Is it not rooted in human nature, in natural capacities? I have not, and shall not, lay down any plans for progress, or any panaceas for social ills. I am simply endeavoring to ascertain in what direction the hand of progress points. And as our answer is to be found in the meaning of history, let us group some of the different epochs already viewed.
When religious freedom was achieved, its advocates deemed the goal of progress attained. Men had held it impossible to separate belief and action. Freedom of thought in the State was inconceivable with the existence of the State. Yet this was realized. The spirit of the age asserted the idea, time furnished the means and answered the query. The State was modified by the curtailment of authority. What statesmen in one century declared inconceivable, men in the following one enjoyed. When authority became wounded unto death in the Vatican, it shrank behind the thrones. The power of the king became logically the point of attack. Where Charles I. lost his head for his stubbornness in matters of conscience, the next age saw Louis XVI. mounting the scaffold because he was king. His crime lay in the insignia of his office. Thoughtful men trembled for the future. To question the divine authority of the monarch seemed utter social ruin. In fact, men seldom were logical in their claims; it was brought about, not by theorists, not by revolutionists and National Assemblies, not by books, but by the stern logic of events; by that social providence that ever bends men’s purposes to the lines of progress and “shapes our ends, rough hew them as we may.”
The great man of his age is he who is most thoroughly its secretary, who voices the cry of the spirit dumbly seeking expression in his generation. The wise man saw the spirit of the sixteenth century to be religious freedom, and buckled on his armor without stopping to philosophize on what had never been, or to bewail the inevitable dissolution of existing social conditions. The armies of revolutionary France cared nothing for constitutional theories. The spirit of the age animated them, and political freedom must be won, and all Europe trembled before their victorious arms.
We return now to our question: What is the spirit of the nineteenth century? Is it striving for the establishment of some principle which will give it a distinctive characteristic in future histories? We have foreseen it. Religious and political
freedom attained, in what direction has the legislation of this century tended? Undeniably the regulation of commercial and industrial relations. In 1801 England began a long series of enactments regulating the hours of labor and protecting the laborer. The whole century has been filled with efforts to ameliorate the condition of the laborer, to shorten his hours of toil, to place educational facilities more within his grasp, in fact, to extend his freedom from economic subjection. Run over in mind the countries of Europe; in not one is this not the case. Labor legislation is a product of this century,—no longer to repress, but to alleviate. Public authority bows to public opinion; demand ever precedes supply. And in this inarticulate demand we will find the spirit of this century.
The spirit of an age is ever the assertion of a principle, legislation the modification of antagonistic principles through its influence. The legislative result is, therefore, ever a compromise, and not a full recognition. The demand of the age, while securing by compromise amelioration, is ever more radical. Need I say that this new spirit—the logical successor of mental and political freedom—is economic freedom! The whole century echoes with its demand; the overthrown standard of the Bundschuh flies on every breeze. It led to the English Reform movement in 1832, and the Chartist uprising. It has broken out in France; whispering in 1830, growing bolder in 1839, erecting barricades in 1818, and filling Europe with dread in 1871! Each time repressed, it has each time risen from contact with the earth in new vigor. If the spirit of this century is to be described in one word, the historian of the future will read on the nineteenth milestone of the ages the legend,—Socialism!
Let us not be blinded with prejudice. Luther and Calvin abjured toleration as of the devil; yet they were the instruments of its success. The Humanists of the seventeenth century extolled royal power while they were unconsciously severing the veins which supplied it with life. The revolutionists of the last century would have scouted the idea that suffrage left aught to be struggled for, yet scarcely had they closed their labors when progress again raised her banner and marched on to new outposts. The emancipation of conscience from control by external authority but cleared the field for new struggles. The emancipation of the individual from royal authority has but simplified the contest. In these cases the seat of authority was visible, objective: a church, a prince. So is it today,—the Politico-Economic State! History is not yet ready to close her scroll and retire on the pension list.
We may continue to imitate the wiseacres of the past, and cry: “Pooh! pooh!” The logic of events listens to no man’s sneer; human progress halts not at privilege’s shriek. Mental liberty, political liberty, economic liberty! Is it not the line of progress? The word Liberty includes all, and she will npt be content with less.
Economically, man has risen; we have traced his course from slave to serf, to wage laborer. He has participated in the achievements of recent centuries. Mentally he is free; no external authority may- dictate or forbid the free expression of his thought. Politically he is free; no external authority may dictate or forbid the free exercise of his choice. But economically he finds freedom denied, and often his economic condition demands the curtailment of his mental and political freedom. He lives by labor, but has no control over the means of labor. He labors, but has no right to labor. The means of subsistence are extended or withheld as individual will or caprice may determine. Like the monster Frankenstein, the creation of his own hands holds him at its mercy. If his labor be needed, the means of labor will be extended to him. If it be not needed, he is told that “at the banquet of nature there is no cover laid for him.”
Will it be always thus? Have we not read the answer in the meaning of history? Progress has only resulted where authority has decayed and freedom extended. The earliest governments were ecclesiastic; Divine authority ruled men,—The-archy, government by God through a priestly hierarchy. With increased social interrelations man’s activities widened, and the warrior king arose. Divine authority was delegated to the hand of power; it stepped forth from the veil of the temple and became embodied. The priest blessed the sword, and mon-archy, government by one man, followed. Till 1789 priest and noble constituted the ruling classes. The insurrection against authority culminated in the Revolution to hurl them from their seat. Commerce and Industry, trader and producer, fought shoulder to shoulder against their ancient enemies in storming the Bastile, and together celebrated their triumph. But the day after the victory saw a new division of forces; the tiers-état had divided. Monarchy fell, but where once the amulet and the sword stood as symbols of authority was now seen the purse. The old aristocracy was replaced by a new timocracy. The monarch had followed the hierarch into the land of shadows; their day had passed. But the power of the purse created in their place an olig-archy,—government by the few who possessed its strings. The new Redeemer of the new world, Capital, was held in legal bondage. Economic subjection to the means of labor, dependence for life upon arbitrary conditions, remained supreme; the third arm of Cæsarism still retained its vigor. The glorious cry for liberty became degraded into commercial freedom,—involving free trade in labor!
As a consequence concentration of wealth has resulted by legal means. The political State is the concrete expression of existing social conditions; it is based upon them, and is clothed with authority to maintain them,—an exercise of force that every day is calling more and more “into activity. For underlying all political questions are the unquestioned economic formulas of the present regime. While all this is in the line of progress, who will assert it to be its end? If the spirit of the age demands economic freedom, the political State cannot bar its course.
In the past force has been the midwife at the birth of every extension of freedom; privilege never concedes till endangered. Authority has ever sought to arrest progress, to dam the stream of time to turn privileged grist mills, and has but increased its destructive momentum when the inevitable break has come. Thearchy, monarchy, oligarchy! The church is of the past, the king is without divine right; will the political State remain? Already the standard of An-archy is unfurled and groups thoughtful followers.
But the absence of government, the negation of authority of man over man, it is shrieked in our ears, is social dissolution, death! Authority must remain to control—others. So said its ecclesiastical defenders, so vociferated the assertors of intolerance, so shrieked the royalists,—yet Humanity lives! Authority will remain wherever freedom is denied”, but with economic freedom attained the State, like the Church, will find its occupation gone. Individual liberty and external authority, of Church, or State, or Mob, cannot co-exist. They are mutually antagonistic. The whole course of historical progress we have seen to be the extension of personal liberty, and the consequent restriction of the sphere of authority. And when a State is seen slowly developing force as its main reliance, it is not only a reactionary policy, but a revolutionary symptom! No man has yet been able to set a satisfactory limit to the extension of freedom. Liberty, not partial, but complete, is the goal of progress.
Let us not be alarmed. The dissipation of authority will continue, the extension of freedom cannot now cease; Cæsarism is dying of its wounds; its convulsive wrenchings betoken its last agony. Where priest and king, clothed with divine consecration, have failed, the militia of the people will not prevail over the inspiration of the age. In the social commonwealth of the future, people will smile at the political methods of this age, as we smile at the judicial combats of the mediaeval age to settle questions of moral right, and the prayers of the Fifth Monarchy men to secure political freedom.
External authority—imperial or delegated—grows more and more restricted in scope as the ages roll on. Each revolving year brings out in clearer relief the fact that social administration and political government are not identical. When mental freedom gained recognition, the church passed away as an objective power, and human thought became of more value. When political freedom broke the blade of the consecrated sword, human actions increased in worth as they were more untrammeled. With the birth of our pseudo Commercial Freedom, the modern State arose. Deprived of a basis in the control of human thought and activity, it necessarily fell back on what remained,—economic privilege. When this is swept away and equality of opportunities prevails, the State ceases. Though government falls, administration will remain; but to administer is neither to regulate or control. The twin delusions—protection and prohibition—will be exploded fallacies in the light of freedom.
Is this inconceivable? Every one will today admit that political methods cannot settle a moral question, cannot decide on the truth of a dogma. We would as soon speak of a black sound, or a round fragrance, as to attempt to identify the now separate spheres of morals and politics. Yet but a few generations ago what is now a commonplace that “even a laborer” can understand was to statesmen inconceivable. Intelligent men today admit that political methods cannot reach economic laws; they underlie our whole social system, and are the foundation of the State. Yet men talk glibly of the power of the ballot in the State to settle economic questions, the spirit of which is a protest against the State. But in the fact that other thousands are aware of the futility of such efforts, that reforms in the political State will not remove economic privilege or subjection, lies my belief that the law of progress still prevails,—that the meaning of history as expounded in the logic of events is mental liberty, political liberty, economic liberty,—that the path of industry through slavery, serfdom, wagedom, will not end short of final emancipation,—that the rise of commerce, overleaping baronial custom dues, State regulation, and prohibitory fines, indicates a coal of unprivileged competition in freedom from legal thraldom,—in short, that the political State, seen to be needed but where privilege obtains, will follow priest and king and be hurled from the seat of authority and the throne overturned.
The reign of the archies is drawing to a close; the Coming of Man is at hand! The night of eighteen Christian centuries has passed; we live in the dawn of a new era, and here and there we can already discern the ruddy tints of the rising Sun of Liberty!
The Martyrdom of Man to Authority must cease!
Slowly comes a hungry people, as a lion creeping Higher,
Glares at one that nods and winks beside a slowly dying fire!