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of private vengeance.
The unlimited condemnation with which many modern writers have spoken of these semi-judicial processes, has arisen from estimating them by a comparison with the more perfect and reasonable modes now adopted for the detection and punishment of crime, instead of comparing them with the anarchy and confusion of the preceding ages, from which they afforded the best, and perhaps, indeed, the only means of escape. Charlemagne and his fellow-legislators had not to consider what was best absolutely, but what was best under the circumstances. "To have attempted the establishment of a judicial process like that which it is our privilege to enjoy, and to have made this imperative in all cases, would have been to attempt an impossibility, and by aiming at too much nothing would have been effected.
Let those who indulge in such derisive condemnation of the legislation of those times remember, too, that the duel has scarcely ceased among ourselves, and that enlightened and professedly Christian nations still attempt to decide questions of right by an appeal to arms.
These remarks will to some extent apply to the places of sanctuary, which existed in the time of Charlemagne, and which he did not attempt to suppress, but only to regulate. It is admitted, that ultimately they became insufferable nuisances, and that when the arm of the
* For further illustration and confirmation of these views, see the very able disquisitions of Robertson and Guizot on this subject in their respective histories.
law gained strength enough to defend the innocent, they were fitly and necessarily swept away. But in those ages of brutal violence and lawless force," when life and when female honour were exposed to daily risk from tyrants and marauders, it was better that the precincts of a shrine should be regarded with an irrational awe, than that there should be no refuge inaccessible to cruelty and licentiousness.”* It was no small advantage to have some place to which helpless innocence might flee, and where the slave might find a refuge from the vengeance of his feudal tyrant. Since the law was too weak to defend the oppressed, their only refuge was in the inviolable protection of the sanctuary of God. To have invaded this, would have been to violate the last and sole resort of the friendless and forlorn. Charlemagne, therefore, preserved the right of sanctuary undisturbed, and only endeavoured to guard it from abuse. It was enacted, that "if any person convicted of a capital offence should take refuge in a church he should not be supplied with food, that thus he might be compelled to surrender himself to justice." The privilege of affording sanctuary to fugitives was at the same time limited to churches, and no longer permitted to be enjoyed in the royal palaces. 06 We will and order," says a capitulary of the year 800, " that none of those who serve in our palace take upon himself to receive any person who seeks refuge there, and comes to conceal himself from justice.
* Macaulay's “ History of England," chap. i.'
If any man violate our prohibition and receive a malefactor into our palace, he shall be forced to take him upon his shoulders, carry him to the place of punishment, and be attached to the same post as the offender."
These penal enactments indicate an advance upon the anarchy of preceding ages, and deserve praise as tending to repress it. Still, what an amount of violence and social disorder do they show to have been still existing in a state of society which tolerated them, and how inadequate were they to check or punish crime! It is impossible to contrast the state of things thus presented to us with the almost perfect security against lawless force afforded in the present day, and the nearly inevitable punishment which sooner or later overtakes the wrong doer, without beholding grounds for deep gratitude to God, who has ordained a government that “ bears not the sword in vain," but is a terror to evil doers, and “ a praise to them that do well.”
The next branch of the legislation of Charlemagne to be considered by us is the ecclesiastical. Adequately to estimate it, we must bear in mind that Rome, though far less corrupt than she afterwards became, had even then entered upon that career of aggression upon the prerogatives of rulers, the liberties of nations, the consciences of individuals, and the rights of God, which have rendered her influence so disastrous to all who have been subject to it. She had already begun to elevate her priest
hood into a position hostile alike to liberty and true religion, and had adopted many of those baleful superstitions, whose main object was and is to enhance her own power, and to replenish her coffers with “the merchandise of the souls of men."
To all such fatal superstitions, insolent pretensions, and priestly exactions, Charlemagne was a zealous and determined opponent, as the following capitula will show.
At a council held at Chalons, in the year 813, in order to check the growing indolence and power of the monastic orders, it was decreed : “ There are priests who lead an idle life, and trust thereby to be purified from sin, and to fulfil the duties of their vocation ; and there are laymen who believe that they may sin, or that they have sinned with impunity because they undertake such and such pilgrimages; there are great men who, under the pretence of religion, practise extortion upon the poor; and there are poor who employ the same pretexts to render begging more profitable. Such are those who wander about and declare that they are on a pilgrimage ; while there are others whose folly is so great, that they believe the mere sight of or dwelling in the holy places will purify them from sin, forgetting the words of St. Jerome, who says, that there is nothing meritorious at Jerusalem but the leading a good life there.”
Again, in order to repress the evils which had even then become rife in the confessional,
it was enacted, that “we must confess our sins to God, who alone has power to forgive sin, according to the thirty-first Psalm, and we must pray to him for salvation. It is by this confession to God that a man becomes purified ; by confession to a priest he only learns the means proper for him to adopt to gain purification. Let not penance be estimated by the length of time spent in it, but by the intensity of contrition and self-mortification, for it is the contrite heart and the humble spirit which God will not despise."
So, too, it was decreed : “Let not a man hope to gain forgiveness by donations to the priest or alms to the poor. Those who act thus seem to think that they can bribe God to let them sin with impunity. If Divine justice could be thus satisfied, Christ would not have said that the rich would find most difficulty in entering the kingdom of heaven.”
In the diet held at Aix la Chapelle, in the year 811, the following instructions were issued to the Missi Dominici :*_" Interrogate the bishops and abbots closely on the meaning of the words of the apostle, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life.' Inquire from them to whom these words apply. Desire them to tell us plainly what is the meaning of the words always in their mouth, ' Renounce the world, and by what signs we may distinguish those who do renounce the world. Is it merely that they do not bear arms
* A kind of royal commissioner.