Imatges de pÓgina

severalty for from one to three years by the freemen of the tribe, but did not entertain the artificial notion of a title which continued through all time as an absolute property, even of the tribes. The Romans made no distinction in theory between title to land and to cattle and slaves employed in tillage. The feudal system came with the seizure of the lands of the Romans and others in Gaul by the invading Franks. Dominion over the land and the conquered people were acquired contemporaneously, and in granting local jurisdiction and mastery, whether as a mere landowner or as an agent of the sovereign power, Charlemagne exacted an oath of fealty. The high regard in which the authority of the church had come to be held and the fearful consequences, spiritual and temporal, which were believed to result from a violated oath, gave to the form of swearing fealty a force and value deemed of first importance. The object of the kings in parcelling out the land among feudatories was to secure their own dominion by the military service which their vassals were bound to furnish. The counts and Margraves appointed by Charlemagne under his vigorous rule obeyed his commands and carried out his policy, but under his weak successors the feudal system developed power in the local lord, who became a despot over those beneath him, a jealous and contentious neighbor to his equals and a haughty and often rebellious vassal of the king. On his own estate the feudal lord administered what had to pass for justice. The actual tillers of the soil were without protection as against him. The practice of building strong castles, within which the barons defied all authority and from which they issued to rob the passing merchant or to wage war on some neighbor nowhere gained more ample development than along the Rhine, Danube and throughout Germany. Not all of the lands of Germany were held by feudal tenure. The village system prevailed largely in the south, and peasant communities with lands in common have survived in various parts to the present day. It would be a tedious and perhaps profitless task to trace the endless wars for succession to power and the ever changing frontiers of the German emperors, who held more or less sway, according to their varying

capacities and the shifting combinations of local rulers with which they were forced to contend. Charlemagne was crowned at Rome by the Pope and held real power in Italy. In 918 Henry, Duke of Saxony, was chosen Emperor and, being a capable and vigorous ruler, extended his authority over the whole German population and in a great battle defeated the Magyars, who were the scourge of Germany at that time. He encouraged the building of towns for the traders, which were made places of defense, and at that early day introduced a check on the tendency of the great lords to draw all the freemen to their support as vassals. The towns steadily developed as centers of industry and trade, and their spirit of independence, which has never disappeared, has profoundly influenced German civilization in all succeeding ages. Probably this development should be attributed more to the genius of the people than to the policy of Henry. At Henry's request the nobles after his death chose his son Otto as his successor. He not only preserved but extended the bounds of the empire. He added Lombardy to his dominions and received the imperial crown from the hands of the Pope. Henceforth the German emperors assumed the title of Roman emperors and claimed to rule the Holy Roman empire, whether receiving the crown from the Pope or not and without regard to the possession of real power in Italy. Otto had to contend with rebellious subjects. The Roman title and efforts to rule Italy proved a source of weakness rather than strength to his successors. The real governing power soon fell into the hands of local potentates holding large estates, or of leaders chosen by the people in contests with the invading Northmen, Magyars and Slavs, against whom the Emperors failed to give protection. We read of dukes of Saxony, Bavaria, Swabia, Lorraine and Franconia, whose power and influence grew as feudal lords. Many unprotected owners of free or allodial lands, being at the mercy of more powerful neighbors, chose to surrender their holdings to a powerful chief and take them back as fiefs under the protection of the feudal lord. The central power was without sufficient vigor to restrain the great lords, who levied war on one another at will. The imperial

power ceased to be recognized as an inheritance after the accession to the throne of Arnuld, the illegitimate son of Carlman: thereafter the Emperors were elected. In 911 Conrad of Franconia was chosen by the nobles under the lead of Otto duke of Saxony. From that time down to the final separation of Austria and Germany in recent times the office was filled by election, but the number of electors was very limited. It was the choosing of an Emperor by princes who exercised more real power than he. The local rulers under the titles of graf, herzog, Margrave, land grave, king, elector and other designations of lay rulers, and the bishops, archbishops, abbots and other ecclesiastical rulers, were each subjected to restraining influences of varying potency according to times and circumstances. The kings and grand dukes, who acquired authority over considerable districts, were dependent for their military following on their feudatories. The ancient German idea of determining questions of war and peace in assemblies of freemen was never wholly obliterated, although at times and in places disused. Local assemblies of the inferior nobility were often convoked in all parts of Germany, and exercised the power at times of choosing their overlords and of deposing distasteful rulers. Feudalism effected the exclusion from the assemblies of the great mass of the people, but the nobility, of whom Germany has been at all times most prolific, never became accustomed to submit to hereditary arbitrary power.

While in other countries it is possible to trace a governmental system maintained by changing dynasties through long periods of time, in Germany we trace the development of the civilization of a race of people maintaining the possession of their ancient home and often sending out conquering hordes to assume mastery of other lands, but never themselves at any time subjected either to a single foreign ruler or a firmly established government of their own with general power over the whole German people. In the earliest times of which we have any account, free German tribes occupied substantially all of modern Germany, the Netherlands, and Austria. The Romans succeeded in imposing their authority on the southern

and a little of the western part of this territory, but it was always a precarious dominion, and the crumbling of the empire first began where it came in contact with Germans. Except for a brief period while the Romans held Dacia-including modern Hungary-the empire was bounded by the Danube and the Rhine, beyond which the Germanic tribes maintained their freedom and defended their possessions against all comers. They have been attacked from every quarter, from the west in the early days by the Romans and later by the French and Spanish; from the north by their kinsmen the Danes, Swedes and Norwegians; from the east by Poles and Russians in the north and the later swarms from Asia in the south-Huns, Avars, Magyars, Tartars and Turks. In the southeast Goths, classed as of German stock, and Avars, Huns and Turks have established successively their authority over Hungary and part of Austria, but the German stock has never been rooted out, and only in Hungary, where the Magyars became the dominant race, have they been forced to give way and allow an alien people to impose enduring dominion over them. On the other hand the German Franks established their dominion over Gaul. The Goths, Vandals and Suevi overran Spain. Wave after wave of German conquest swept over Italy under the names of Goths, Lombards, Franks and Germans. Even Britain was colonized and mastered by the Angles and Saxons.

The preservation of the German race and the maintenance of its possession of central Europe have not been due to any strong centralized government, nor to harmonious or concerted action of the different states. The system of dividing inheritances equally among males has, during much of the time, been applied to those estates which carried also hereditary rulership, and has resulted in repeated divisions of states among heirs, who frequently fought with each other for the whole. The Franks under the Merovings suffered for centuries from the contests of the heirs of their kings for the inheritance. The rights of rulers great and small were the only rights considered, and the people were constantly called on to give up their lives in the struggles of vicious and cruel

nobles for mastery over the land. Nothing can be more sad and dreary than the records of the bloody struggles brought on by the ambition, malice, cupidity and other evil passions of those invested with authority. If the accounts of wars great and petty, with which the pages of German history are so completely filled, were in fact the records of all that has been done by the princes and rulers, a sweeping judgment, utterly condemning the whole and denying all value in such governments, might safely be pronounced, but war has always been the favorite topic of historians, and the doings of peace are mostly left without other record than their impresses on society and the face of the earth. Most prominent among the characteristics of German society, the good effects of which can be discerned in all periods of history, are the relative purity of domestic life, the respect accorded women and the equal treatment of children. No cruel theory of slavery to a father or husband was ever adopted. Purity and warmth of attachment of husbands and wives to each other and to their children without distinction have in all ages been eminently characteristic of the Germans. Though the Rhine was for centuries infested by its robber barons, and though wrong and robbery abode securely in the castles all over the land, in no country and among no people has there developed a more general and sturdy honesty than among the Germans. The performance of promises and the payment of debts imply industry, without which the ability is wanting. So the German people are noted for industry and thrift. This is especially true of the low countries, Holland and Belgium, where the manufacturing of fabrics and attendant foreign trade early developed. The strength of the German people has been and is moral strength. They have not until very recent times exhibited marked capacity for great combination for military supremacy, but have on countless fields exhibited a tenacity and obstinate courage which has preserved the integrity of their homes, where other people would have been crushed or enslaved. German development has been many sided. Henry III 1039-56 sought to reform the church, which had fallen into great corruption, and in 1046 he entered Rome, deposed

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