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sent, Joes not suffice for the human soul; it feels narrow and poor in it; it desires more extension, more variety. Hence the importance and the charm of the past, of national traditions, of all that portion of the life of nations in which imagination wanders and freely enjoys itself, amidst a space far more vast than actual life. Nations may one moment, under the influence of a violent isis, deny their past—even curse it; they cannot forget it, nor long or absolutely detach themselves from it. On a certain occasion, in one of the ephemeral parliaments held in England under Cromwell, in that which took the name of one of its members, a ridiculous personage, in the Barebone parliament, a fanatic arose, and demanded that in all the offices, in all public establishments, they should destroy the archives, the records, all the written monuments of old England. This was an excess of that fever which sometimes seizes nations, amidst the most useful, the most glorious regenerations; Cromwell, more sensible, had the proposition rejected. Is it to be supposed that it would long have had the assent of England, that it would truly have attained its end?
In my opinion, the school of the eighteenth century has more than once committed this mistake of not comprehending the whole of the part which imagination plays in the life of man and of society. It has attacked, cried down, on the one hand, everything ancient, on the other, all which assumed to be.eternal, history and religion: that is, it has seemed to dispute, to wish to take from men the past and the future, in order to concentrate them in the present. The mistake explains itself, even excuses itself by the ardour of the struggle then on foot, and by the empire of the passion of the moment, which satisfied those requirements of emotion and of imagination, imperishable in human nature. But it is no less serious, and of serious consequence. It were easy to show the proof and effects of this in a thousand details of our contemporaneous history.
It has, moreover, been made matter of complaint, and with reason, that our history was not national, that we were in want of associations, of popular traditions. To this fact some of the faults of our literature, and even of our character, have been imputed. Should it then be extended beyond these natural limits? Is it to be regretted that the past should again become something for us, that we should again take some interest in it?
In a political point of view, and in an entirely positive aim, this were a valuable advantage. The power of associations in fixing and fertilizing institutions is very great. Our institutions are beneficial and powerful; they rest upon truly national interests, upon ideas which have penetrated deeply into minds. Still they are young; they do not claim the authority of a long experience, at all events not of a long national experience. It was in the name of reason, of philosophy, that they first appeared: they took birth in doctrines: a noble origin, but for some time subject to the uncertainties, the vicissitudes of the human mind.
What more useful than to make them thus strike root in the past; to unite the principles and guarantees of our social order to principles half seen, to guarantees sought in the same path through ages? Facts are at present popular; facts have favour and credit. Well
, let the institutions, the ideas which are dear to us, be strongly established in the bosom of facts, of the facts of all time; let the trace of them be everywhere found; let them everywhere reappear in our history. They will thence derive force, and we ourselves dignity; for a na tion has higher esteem for itself, and has greater pride in itself, when it can thus, in a long series of ages, prolong its destiny and its sentiments.
Lastly, another advantage, an advantage of an entirely different nature, but no less considerable, must result to us from impartiality towards the middle ages, and from an attentive and familiar contemplation of that epoch.
That the social reform which is brought about in our times, under our eyes, is immense, no man of sense can deny. Never were human relations regulated with more justice, never has the result been a more general well-being.
Not only is social reform great, but I am convinced that a correspondent moral reform has also been accomplished; that, perhaps, at no epoch has there been, upon the whole, so much propriety in human life, so many men living regularly, that never has less public force been necessary to repress individual wills. Practical morality, I am convinced, has made almost as much progress as the well-being and the prosperity of the country.
But under another point of view we have, I think, muck to gain, and we are justly reproachable. We have lived for
fifty years under the influence of geceral ideas, more and more accredited and powerful, under the weight of formidable, almost indescribable events. Thence has resulted a certain weakness, a certain effeminacy in minds and in characters. Individual wills and convictions want energy and confidence in themselves. They think with a opinion, they obey a general impulse, they give way to an external necessity. Whether to resist or to act, each has but little idea of his own strength, little confidence in his wn thoughts. The individuality, in a word, the inward and personal energy of man, is weak and timid. Amidst the progress of general liberty, men seem to have lost the proud sentiment of their own liberty.
Such were not the middle ages; the social condition of those ages was deplorable; human morality very inferior, according to what is told us, to that of our times. But in men, individuality was strong-will, energetic.
There were then few general ideas which governed all minds, few events which, in all parts of the territory, in all situations, weighed upon characters. The individual displayed himself upon his own account, according to his own inclination, irregularly, and with confidence; the moral nature of man appeared here and there with all its ambition, all its energy. A spectacle not only dramatic and attractive, but instructive and useful; which offers us nothing to regret, nothing to imitate, but much to learn from, were it only by constantly recalling our attention to that wherein we are deficient, by showing us what a man may do when he knows how to believe and to will.
Such merits certainly will justify the care which we shall take in our study; and it will, I hope, be seen, that in being just fully just towards this great epoch, there is for us no danger and some benefit.
Hecessity for studying the progressive formation of the feudal system— It is
often forgotten that social facts form themselves but slowly, and in forming themselves undergo many vicissitudes-Analysis of the feudal system in its essential elements. They are three in number: 1. The nature of territorial property; 2. Amalgamation of sovereignty and property; 3. Hierarchical organization of the feudal association-State of territorial property from the 5th to the 10th century-Origin and meaning of the word feodum—It is synonymous with beneficium—History of benefices, from the 8th to the 10th century-Examination of the system of Montesquieu concerning the legal gradation of the duration of benefices-Causes of the increase of the number of benefices—Almost al landed property became feudal.
It has been shown that the feudal period embraces the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries.
Before entering upon it, before studying it in itself and according to the plan which I have drawn out, it is necessary that we should have some distinct idea of the origins of feudalism; it is necessary to follow it, and to present it to our minds in all the various phases of its progressive formation, from the fifth to the tenth century.
I intentionally say, its progressive formation. No great fact, no social state, makes its appearance complete and at once; it is formed slowly, successively; it is the result of a multitude of different facts, of different dates and origins, which modify and combine themselves in a thousand ways before constituting a whole presenting itself in a clear and systematic form, receiving a special name and standing through a long life.
This is so simple, so evident a truth, that, at first sight, it scems useless to call it to mind; it is, however, necessary to do
so, for it has been and is constantly forgotten. An historical epoch is generally studied when it has ceased, a social condition when it has disappeared. It is, then, in their entirety, under their complete and definitive form that that epoch and that condition are presented to the mind of the ohserver or the historian. He is easily led to suppose that it has always been thus; he easily forgets that those facts, which he contemplates in all their development, commenced, increased, and while increasing underwent numerous metamorphoses; and he proposes to see, and everywhere seeks them, such as he knew and conceived them at the time of their full maturity.
Numerous and various errors arise from this inclination, in the history even of beings whose unity and whose permanence is the greatest and most visible in the history
Why are there so many contradictions and uncertainties concerning the character and moral destinies of Mahomet, of Cromwell
, or of Napoleon? Why those problems concerning their sincerity or hypocrisy, their egoism or patriotism? Because people want to see them, as it were, simultaneously, and as having co-existent in them dispositions and ideas which were successively developed; because they forget that, without losing their essential identity, they greatly and constantly changed; that the vicissitudes of their external destiny corresponded to internal revolutions, often unseen by their contemporaries, but real and powerful. It they followed them step by step, from their first appearance in the world until their death, if they were present at that secret work of their moral nature amidst the mobility and activity of their life, they would perceive many of those incoherences, those absurdities which surprise them, disappear, or at least become attenuated; and then only would they truly know and understand them.
If it be thus in the history of individual beings, the most simple of all, and whose duration is so short, with how much more reason is it in the history of societies, of those general facts, so vast, so complex, and which extend through so many centuries! It is here especially that there is danger of verlooking the variety of origins, the complication and slowness of formation. We have a striking example of this is the matter which occupi:s Few historical proo