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of its situatio 1–Rapid decay of boroughs, properly so called-By what
causes-1. By the centralization of feudal powers--2. By the patronage
of kings and great suzerains—3. By the internal disorders of towns-
Decline of the borough of Laon—The third estate did not fall at the
same time as the borough, on the contrary, it developed and strengthened
itself—History of the towns administered by the officers of the king-
Influence of royal judges and administrators over the formation and
progress of the third estate-What is to be thought of the communal
liberties and their results ?-Comparison of France and Holland -Con-
clusion of the course
Object of the course_Elements of national unity—They exist and begin to
be developed in France towards the end of the 10th century—Thence dates French civilization—The feudal period will be the subject of this course—It includes the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries, from Hugh Capet to Philippe de Valois-Proof that these are the limits of the feudal period—Plan of the course : History; lst, of society; 2nd, of the human mind, during the feudal period—The history of society resolves itself into, lst, history of civil society; 2nd, history of religious society—The history of the human mind resolves itself into, Ist, history of learned literature; 2nd, history of national literature in the vulgar tongue-Importance of the middle ages in the history of French civilization--The present state of opinions concerning the middle ages-Is it true that there is danger in historical impartiality and poetical sympathy for this period ?-Utility of this study.
In commencing the last course, I was obliged to determine its subject, and to explain the motives of my choice. At present I have not anything of the kind to do. The subject of our study is known; the route is traced. I endeavoured to place you in the presence of the origins of French civilization under the two first races; I propose to follow it through all its vicissitudes, in its long and glorious development up 10 the eve of our cwn times. I now, therefore, again take up the Bubject where we left it, that is to say at the end of the tentb Bentury, at the accession of the Capetians.
As I told you in concluding the past course, it is there that French civilization commences. Hitherto you will recollect, we have spoken of Gaulish, Roman, Gallo-Roman, Frankish, Gallo-Frankish, civilization; we were obliged to make 0897 of foreign names which did not belong to us, in order to express with any fulness, a society without unity, without fixedness, without entirety. Dating from the end of the tenth century, there is no longer anything of this kind; it is now with the French, with French civilization, that we have to occupy ourselves.
And yet it was at this very epoch that all national and political unity was disappearing from our land. All books say
this, and all facts show it. It was the epoch when the feudal system, that is to say, the dismemberment of the people and of power, entirely prevailed. At the eleventh century, the soil which we call France was covered with petty nations and petty sovereigns, almost strangers one to the other, almost independent of each other. Even the very shadow of a central government, of a general nation, seemed to have disappeared.
How comes it that really French civilization and history commences exactly at the moment when it was almost impossible to discover a France?
It is because, in the life of nations, the external visible unity, the unity of name and government, although important, is not the first, the most real, not that which truly constitutes a nation. There is a more profound, more powerful unity: that which results, not from the identity of government and destiny, but from the similarity of social elements, from the similarity of institutions, manners, ideas, sentiments, languages; the unity which resides in the men themselves whom the society unites together, and not in the forms of their junction; moral unity, in point of fact, far superior to political unity, and which alone can give it a solid foundation,
Well, it is at the end of the tenth century that the cradle of this at once unique and complex being, which has become the French nation, is placed. She required many centuries and long efforts to extricate herself, and to produce herself in her simplicity and grandeur. Still, at this epoch, her elementa existed, and we begin to catch glimpses of the work of their development. In the times which we studied in the inst wurse, from the fifth to the tenth century, under Charlemagne, for example, external political unity was often greater and stronger than at the epoch with which we are about to Occupy ourselves.
But if you go thoroughly into the matter, into the moral state of the men themselves, you find there is an utter absence of unity. The races are profoundly different, and even hostile; the laws, traditions, manners, languages, likewise differ and struggle; situations, social relations have neither generality nor fixedness. At the end of the tenth and at the commencement of the eleventh century, there was no kind of political unity like that of Charlemagne, but races began to amalgamate; diversity of laws according to origin is no longer the principle of all legislation. Social situations have acquired some fixedness ; institutions not the same, but throughout analogous, the feudal institutions prevailed, or nearly so, over all the land. In place of the radical, imperishable diversity of the Latin language and the Germanic languages, two languages began to be formed, the Roman language of the south, and the Roman language of the north, doubtless different, but still of the same origin, of the same character, and destined one day to become amalgamated. Diversity also began to be effaced from the soul of men, from their moral existence. The German is less addicted to his Germanic traditions and habits; he gradually detaches himself from the past to belong to his present situation. It is the same with the Roman; he thinks less of the ancient empire, of its fall, and of the sentiments which it gave rise to in him. Over conquerors and conquered, the new, actual facts, which are common to them, daily exercise more influence. In a word, political unity is almost null, real diversity still very great, and yet at bottom there is more of true unity than there has been for five centuries. We begin to catch glimpses of the elements of a nation ; and the proof is, that from this epoch the tendency of all these social elements to conjoin, to assimilate and form themselves into great masses, that is to say, the tendency towards national unity, and thence towards political unity, becomes the dominant characteristic, the great fact of the history of French civilization, the general and constant fact around which all our study will torn.