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potism, and gave the church a temporal kingdom in a part of Italy, with an immense spiritual empire highly embarrassing to free mental growth. The reaction against this spiritual control produced the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, in which was wrapped up the germ of mod ern Republicanism.
3. The Crusades loosened the bonds of Feudalism, taught nations and rulers to act together to gain a common object, enlarged the experiences of men immensely, and cultivated and organized the spirit of personal adventure which afterwards expended itself on commerce.
It was at about the crisis of this period (1215, A. D.) that the Magna Charta — the foundation of English constitutional liberty -- was produced; that the Hanseatic League and Free Cities began to flourish in Germany; the commercial republics of Venice, Genoa and Florence rose in Italy; and the communal corporations in France sprang up. They were all more or less stimulated by influences growing out of the Crusades, and brought forward the people and their distinct and separate interests and activities into political importance. This was the beginning of an entirely new order of things, which required a new continent for its full development.
4. A first circumstance, above all favorable to the libertier of the people, was the Invention of Printing, producing rapid diffusion of information, the coincident revival of learning and the foundation of modern science. All these, working together with various other agencies, gradually swept away feudalism, checked the towering spiritual tyranny of the churc) and corrected a crowd of minor evils that embarrassed society, enterprise, and progress in the science of government.
The intermediate stage in this progress appeared like a return to old principles. The dissolution of feudalism left the governments of Europe centralized. The lords inheriting feudal rights had become intolerable despots. For a certain period the authority of the king was the bulwark behind which the people sheltered themselves from the oppressions of their
feudal superiors, and they united with him to reduce the feudal nobility to the comparatively harmless condition of the modern aristocracy, whose greatest distinction is social pre-eminence. It left them, indeed, a high, but not overwhelming, position in the body politic, which the growing education and wealth of the middle and lower classes constantly tended to reduce. This change was commencing when America was discovered. The feudal chiefs labored to extend and strengthen their power at the expense of each other, of the king and the people. The increasing activity and importance of commerce, trade and industry required the support of a broad legislation that could not be obtained while nations were broken up into petty lordships, principalities and kingdoms almost independent of each other, and whose rulers were often hostile to or at war with each other; while the support of so many rulers became a heavy burden on the resources of the people. The king represented the nation and was the rallying point of reform. To strengthen him was to promote the larger interests of the country.
5. For these reasons, and from the resistance offered by the feudal institutions, which had existed a thousand years, anthority became centralized in the monarch to an extravagant degree, and this at a time when freer institutions were most required by the larger and wiser views of the people. The great usefulness of the Roman Catholic Church in civilizing and educating the modern nations and founding a center or common bond between them, which produced a degree of unity in their progress, had continually added to her power, while the disposition to free thought was ever becoming more pronounced. Thus two despotic forces, each claiming absolute obedience in their respective spheres, were rising in strength to a degree extremely embarrassing to the growing intelligence and increased activities of the commonalty. The traditional authority of the church and the king came, in the course of a hundred years after the discovery of America, to
directly oppose the most important interests and instincts of mankind.
6. The progress of the people, as distinct from that of their governments, may then be described as starting in the last great service done for Europe by the church-the organization of the Crusades. The feudal system separated men too much for healthy progress, and this singular display of religious zeal united the various nationalities in a common effort, and stirred up powers that had long slumbered. It was in this period that the adventurous and comprehensive activities of modern life commenced. Wealth had been largely confined to the feudal nobility. It now began to flow out through the general community. The nobles expended vast sums in fitting out princely retinues to lead to the Holy Land, for which their estates were security. They died, or returned penniless, and their lands passed into the hands of the commercial classes, whose successful diligence had made them wealthy. It was the first heavy blow to feudal institutions, and laid the foundation of the power of the people.
Corporations and cities which had obtained the rights of feudal proprietors, employed them for the purposes of selfgovernment, and so used an instrument of despotism to shield and sustain a virtual democracy. With this freedom of action, popular liberty, controlled in a general way by feudal obligations to the prince, king, or emperor, grew fast and strong protected by the growing despotisms of the church and the state. The Hanseatic League, in the north of Germany, was, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, perhaps as wealthy and powerful as any king or emperor in Christendom; and in the sixteenth, the small commercial province of the Netherlands could defy the whole power of Spain, with the wealth of the Indies at her back.
7. The revival of learning, and the invention of the art of printing, gave an immense impulse to this uprising of the people, commenced near three hundred years before; about the same time the Portuguese discovered the way to India by
the Cape of Good Hope, Columbus threw open the “Gates of the West," and the wealth of both Indies flowed in a full stream through the channels of commerce and trade; that is to say, into the hands of the busy and industrious people. All events seemed to conspire to build up a base for the power and development of the commonalty.
This growing intelligence and strength among the masses, with the habit of ruling themselves under feudal forms, made a conflict with the two arrogant despotisms inevitable in the near future. Feudal institutions were still a serious and vexatious embarrassment to freedom of movement, and a very heavy tax on industry, and the only legal way to remove it was by strengthening the central or kingly power, which continued to increase for more than a hundred years; but the conflict with priestly despotism was entered on at once. A vast rebellion against the church commenced, called “The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century,” which embraced nearly all the most enterprising and commercial nations.
THE SITUATION ON THE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA.
1. We have said that great men were a kind of summary of the tendencies of their period ; an expression of a widespread thought or state of mind, which their fortunate combination of faculties and more favorable circumstances enabled them first to state, or embody, with distinctness; that the great following they obtained, and the extensive influence which enabled them to make great changes, were due to a coincident development in their generation of the same thoughts and tendencies. This explains the existence of eras in all departments of life. Men grow, or progress, silently, from one to the other ; when the general progress has reached the suitable point it breaks out in a leader more bold and positive than the rest.
The discovery of America was such an era; and the sudden
advance in many ways at about the same time was the result of gradual growth during many centuries. It was shown by the sudden appearance of great men in different spheres. Columbus lived in the midst of a great era. Printing, the use of the compass, the science of astronomy and the successful protest against spiritual despotisin all commenced their great career just before, or just after him. The great painters, , whose works are now so much esteemed, were all living in 1500. Copernicus discovered the true planetary system in the year Columbus died. Gunpowder, which enabled Cortez to conquer the Mexican Empire, came into general use about the same period. Luther commenced the Reformation, while the first adventurers were creeping, with amazed curiosity, around the shores of the American continent. The foundation of all the sciences was then laid. Correct principles were enunciated for religion, government and thought; and the laws of nature, of human relations and of religious liberty were promulgated almost simultaneously.
2. But not all the European nations, and not all of any one nation, were prepared for this vast advance. The southern part of Germany, and the people in general in southern Europe, resisted what they regarded as a dangerous innovation, and the reform spread only north and west. The close connection instituted by Constantine between church and state, which was renewed under Charlemagne, raised at this time, a long series of religious wars, which contributed to embarrass Protestantism in the same way by the necessity under which it lay, (or supposed it lay) of seeking the protection of princes, Luther's reorganized church became the state religion of northern Europe, and fell under governinent control in Switzerland and Holland. Henry VIII. of England, while yielding, like a true Englishman, to the general tendency of his people, in taking the reformed faith under his protection constituted himself its head.
In the long contest between Catholic and Protestant, it became apparent that full religious liberty was not then pas