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nises its relics in many of our customs; and the philosopher detects its spirit as an element in the mass of society, which has not yet lost all its power. As the disintegrated portions of primary rocks may be discovered in recently formed strata-as fragments of ancient structures may be sometimes seen wrought up in buildings of modern date; so portions of the feudal system may be discovered in our present laws and institutions, and may be seen staring forth in the political and social fabric of the present day.
ESTIMATE OF THE EFFECTS OF FEUDALISM.
CERTAIN evils often attributed to feudalism did not spring from it. For instance, slavery was not its offspring, nor indeed an integral part of it. The lord and the vassal were the parties who formed the feudal relationship; and though the latter was not a freeman, according to our views, he was not a slave, but had certain personal and social rights, which his lord was bound to respect and preserve. Slavery of an abject kind existed in Europe long before the feudal system appeared. It existed in the free republic of Rome ; in Greece, too, the cradle of liberty ; and while Athens knelt at the shrine of freedom, and poets, and philosophers, and orators, were her ministering priests, there were thousands of slaves within the narrow limits of Attica. The Germans had slaves ; the Saxons had slaves all Europe had slaves. Feudalism found slavery in existence, and attached it to itself. The system was not inimical to it, but it did not create the evil.
In relation to the social disorders of the middle ages, the insecurity of property, the personal dangers, the robberies and cruelties which prevailed, it may be remarked, that the feudal system, if it did not quench them, did not kindle them; and if, in some cases, it should appear that the system fanned them into greater violence, it also appears that, in other cases, it checked their operation. The state of society, at the commencement of the feudal era, was most deplorable. It was disorganized and dissolved. The Roman empire was shattered to pieces. Monarchy made some abortive attempts to mould the scattered fragments of the social fabric into form, but failed. The kingdom of Charlemagne shone like a meteor, and vanished. The church sunk in ignorance and corruption. The religious power almost entirely left it. The times were awful. Men's hearts failed them because of fear. The moral heavens blazed with strange portents, and many cried, “The end of all things is at hand.” Amidst all this disorder, the feudal principle was developing itself; on this scene of social strife and misery it had to work; this was the theatre of its operation, the field of its. career; and when it terminated its course, it certainly left Europe better than at the beginning.
Mr. Hallam has shown that feudalism acconiplished two great political results. In Germany, it stood in the way of the ambitious designs of an Otho and a Barbarossa, and prevented the establishment of a great empire,a powerful despotism, crushing the seeds of commerce and liberty, and retarding, perhaps for ages, the progress of civilisation. In France, it prevented the dismemberment of the monarchy, and its reduction into a number of petty and despotic sovereignties; for “who can doubt that some of the counts of France would have thrown off all connexion with the crown, if the slight dependence of vassalage had not been substituted for legitimate subjection to a sovereign?”
As to its moral influence, it cannot be denied that feudalism nurtured fidelity and gratitude. It also inspired a sense of honour-far different, indeed, from a sense of duty, especially as it exists in a Christian's mind, and having in it much of lofty pridevet it may be justly observed, “ Was it not much that such honour could be felt, and its dictates obeyed in so tumultuous an age ?” “ Everything is to be measured according to its times.”* And father, there can be little doubt that, in the interior of the old castles, where the baron, or knight, during intervals of peace, had no society but his own family, domestic life
* British Quarterly Review, vol. i. 255.
and the condition of women were in some instances improved, contributing toward the inspiration of that lofty and pure affection, which has shed so beautiful an influence over modern civilisation. The soft charities of home thus sprung up, like myrtles, among the dark wild rocks of feudal society, relieving and adorning them with its snow-white blossoms.
At the same time, it generated and sustained many unhallowed and anti-social habits and principles, especially, war, injustice, and revenge. The records of the middle ages contain the expression of sentiments, and the history of deeds of the most unchristian and revolting character. The worst passions of the human mind are seen playing around the system, like lightning around the summit of one of its hoary castles at midnight. If flowers are growing at the base, there are weeds of deadly poison too. It must be allowed also, that, as, a political system, it was most defective; it left almost everything to the mercy of the ruler, made no provision for the rights of the governed, supplied no constitutional guarantee for social order, and might easily prove an engine of oppression and cruelty to those who were so disposed to employ it.
It could, of necessity, last but for a season, being a transition state of things. It evidently contained the elements of its own dissolution, and nurtured a spirit of resistance which was sure at length to destroy it. On the whole, it was a rough process of discipline, tending to