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HISTORY OF THE LIMITS AND EXTENT OF THE MIDDLE AGE.

WHEN the magnitude of the Roman empire grew enormous, and there were two imperial cities, Rome and Constantinople, then that happened which was natural; out of one empire it became two, distinguished by the different names of the Western, and the Eastern.

The Western empire soon sunk. So early as in the fifth century, Rome, once the mistress of nations, beheld herself at the feet of a Gothic sovereign. The Eastern empire lasted many centuries longer, and, though often impaired by external enemies, and weakened as often by internal factions, yet still it retained traces of its ancient splendour, resembling, in the language of Virgil, some fair but faded flower:

Cui neque fulgor adhuc, necdum, sua forma recessit. VIRG.

At length, after various plunges and various escapes, it was totally annihilated in the fifteenth century by the victorious arms of Mahomet the Great.

The interval between the fall of these two empires (the Western or Latin in the fifth century, the Eastern or Grecian in the fifteenth) making a space of near a thousand years, constitutes what we call the middle age.

Dominion passed during this interval into the hands of rude, illiterate men: men who conquered more by multitude than by military skill; and who, having little or no taste either for sciences or arts, naturally despised those things from which they had reaped no advantage.

This was the age of monkery and legends; of Leonine verses, (that is, of bad Latin put into rhime;) of projects, to decide truth by ploughshares and battoons; of crusades, to conquer infidels, and extirpate heretics; of princes deposed, not as Croesus was by Cyrus, but by one who had no armies, and who did not even wear a sword.

Different portions of this age have been distinguished by different descriptions: such as Sæculum Monotheleticum, Sæculum Eiconoclasticum, Sæculum Obscurum, Sæculum Ferreum, Sæculem Hildibrandinum, &c.; strange names it must be confessed, some more obvious, others less so, yet none tending to furnish us with any high or promising ideas.

And yet we must acknowledge, for the honour of humanity and of its great and divine Author, who never forsakes it, that some sparks of intellect were at all times visible, through the whole of this dark and dreary period. It is here we must look for the taste and literature of the times.

The few who were enlightened, when arts and sciences were thus obscured, may be said to have happily maintained the continuity of knowledge; to have been (if I may use the expression) like the twilight of a summer's night; that auspicious gleam between the setting and the rising sun, which, though it cannot retain the lustre of the day, helps at least to save us from the totality of darkness. Harris.

THE FEUDAL SYSTEM.

THE feudal policy and laws were established with little variation in every kingdom of Europe. This uniformity originated from the similar state of society and manuers to which they were accustomed. Instead of those loose associations, which were sufficient for their defence in their original countries, they saw the necessity of uniting in more close confederacy, to defend themselves against new invaders, or the ancient inhabitants whom their clemency had spared. Every freeman, upon receiving a portion of the lands which were divided, bound himself to appear in arms against the enemies of the community. This military service was the condition upon which he received and held his lands; and as they were exempted from every other burden, that tenure, among a warlike people, was deemed both easy and honourable. The king or general who led them to conquest, continuing still to be the head of the colony, had of course the largest portion allotted to him. Having thus acquired the means of rewarding past services, as well as of gaining new adherents, he parcelled out his lands with this view, binding those on whom they were bestowed to follow his standard with a number of men in proportion to the territory which they received, and to bear arms in his defence. His chief officers imitated the example of the sovereign, and in distributing portions of their lands among their dependents, annexed the same condition to the grant. Thus, a feudal kingdom resembled a military establishment rather than a

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civil institution. The victorious army, cantoned out in the country which it seized, continued ranged under its proper officers, and subordinate to military command. The names of a soldier and of a freeman were synonymous. Every proprietor of land, girt with a sword, was ready to march at the command of his superior, and to take the field against the common enemy.

The principles of disorder and corruption are discernible in that constitution under its best and most perfect form. They soon unfolded themselves, and, spreading with rapidity through every part of the system, produced the most fatal effects. The bond of political union was extremely feeble; the sources of anarchy were innumerable. The monarchical and the aristocratical parts of the constitution, having no intermediate power to balance them, were perpetually at variance, and justling with each other. The powerful vassals of the crown soon extorted a confirmation for life of those grants of lands, which, being at first purely gratuitous, had been bestowed only during pleasure. Not satisfied with this, they prevailed to have them converted into hereditary possessions. One step more completed their usurpation, and rendered them unalienable. With an ambition no less enterprising, and more preposterous, they appropriated to themselves titles of honour, as well as offices of power or trust. These personal marks of distinction, which the public administration bestows on illustrious merit, or which the public confidence confers on extraordinary abilities, were annexed to certain families, and transmitted like fiefs, from father to son, by

hereditary right. The crown vassals having thus secured the possession of their lands and dignities, the nature of the feudal institutions, which though founded on subordination verged to independence, led them to new and still more dangerous encroachments on the prerogatives of the sovereign. They obtained the power of supreme jurisdiction both civil and criminal within their own territories, the right of coining money, together with the privilege of carrying on war against their private enemies, in their own name and by their own authority. The ideas of political subjection were almost entirely lost, and frequently scarcely any appearance of feudal subordination remained. Nobles who had acquired such enormous power scorned to consider themselves as subjects. They aspired openly at being independent: the bonds which connected the principal members of the constitution with the crown were dissolved. A kingdom, considerable in name and in extent, was broken into as many separate principalities as it contained powerful barons. A thousand causes of jealousy and discord subsisted among them, and gave rise to as many wars. Every country in Europe, wasted or kept in alarm during these endless contests, was filled with castles or places of strength, erected for the security of the inhabitants, not against foreign force, but against internal hostilities. An universal anarchy, destructive in a great measure of all the advantages which men expect to derive from society, prevailed. The people, the most numerous as well as the most useful part of the community, were either reduced to a state of actual servitude, or treated with the

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