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and wisdom, gained from experience and the inspirations of religious teachers, poets and philosophers, is of the most inestimable value. To the church and the monasteries we owe, not merely the preservation and transmission to our times of the sacred writings, but also, the perishable manuscripts in which were written the learning of the heathen world, which the art of printing has now made accessible to the educated people of all nations. Through them, perhaps more than any other medium, the light of the Roman jurisprudence has been rekindled to become again the basis of judicial action throughout Europe.
The political importance of the barons in France, where the feudal system attained its most complete development, is exhibited by the following functions and exemptions which they asserted. 1. Power to coin money. 2. To wage private war. 3. Exemption from all taxation and tribute except the feudal aids. 4. Freedom from legislative control. exclusive exercise of judicial functions in their dominions. A system recognizing these claims necessarily left the central authority a mere shadow. The only semblance of general legislative authority seems to have been that exercised by general councils of the church. With all its tyranny the feudal system contained some germs of social order and civil liberty. It recognized a definite obligation resting on the lord to protect the vassal, and was based on the idea, if not the substance, of mutual support and advantage. The terms af the relation were fixed by general understanding, if not always faithfully observed. Within his demesne justice was administered publicly by the lord in accordance with the customs of the times, and all mere arbitrary power was theoretically denied, though actually exercised. The system flourished for about three centuries and begun to wane. The forces which undermined it proceeded from two directions, the sovereigns and the towns. The king could not maintain his wars successfully with the mere temporary support of his vassals. Longer terms of service and money for supplies were indispensable to the reduction of a fortified town. Long service could only be gained with pay. Pay could only be afforded by a general system of contribution or taxation. National spirit, stimulated by the crusades, and distant wars, inclined public sentiment toward strengthening the hands of the kings.
At the other end we find the towns, seats of industry, imbued with a more democratic spirit and inclined to resist the tyranny of the barons. Productive industry and peaceful inclinations tended to a greater increase of numbers than that among the retainers of those whose only calling was war. Not only did the numbers of the townsmen increase more rapidly through natural multiplication, but they steadily gained at the expense of the nobles through the settlement of villeins and small feudatories in the towns, where they were generally welcomed and accorded burghers privileges. The feudal system, operating throughout the same great field as the monastic and church system, reduced the power of the kings to a mere shadow of the absolutism of the ancient emperors. The popes persistently advanced their claims of spiritual supervision, and in the exercise of religious discipline exerted in fact a powerful influence, and often an arbitrary supervision, over secular affairs. The papal power was rapidly extended by encouraging appeals to Rome in all disputes arising in the church, and then of controversies between contending princes. Thus Lothair was taken to task for divorcing his wife and excommunicated by Pope Nicholas I. Excommunication in some states of society might amount to little more than an expression of displeasure, but in an age of superstition and of general submission to the church it was a heavy penalty depriving the offender of all participation in the ministrations of the church and of all communion with its members. It in effect singled him out as an object of scorn and detestation to be shunned and condemned by all mankind. The proud Lothair at first treated the action of the Pope with contempt, but was forced to humbly sue at the feet of Adrian II for pardon and absolution. The law also added to the force of the papal authority a disqualification of the excommunicated person to testify as a witness in a court of justice, or even to bring an action. A yet more severe weapon wielded by the
head of the church was the interdict, by which not only the offender, but all his subjects, were deprived of religious privileges. The churches throughout his dominions were closed, the bells silenced and the dead left unburied. No rites but those of baptism and extreme unction could be performed. The penalty fell on the unoffending subjects with the same severity as on the guilty ruler. Though the power of the church was sometimes successfully resisted, and though kings sometimes in turn ruled the weaker popes and used them as instruments for their own aggrandisement, in an age when all learning was the property of the church and superstitious veneration of pope and clergy was so general, the interdict was an effectual weapon for the execution of papal commands.
From the anarchistic conditions which prevailed when feudalism was at its height modern European society has been envolved. The political map of that continent has been subject to many and sweeping changes, and still shows many small states, constantly armed and expectant of war. No firm bond yet binds the people of different nations to each other. Narrowness, distrust and inherited hatreds, still bar the way to sensible combination and the acceptance by rival states of mutual good-will and good deeds. Yet from the disorganized and chaotic mass of the dark ages states with larger territory, more varied popular elements, and better principles have grown up. These we must examine separately and in detail.
Authorities Henry Hallam: History of Europe during the Middle Ages. H. M. Gwatkin: The Cambridge Mediaeval History. Michaud's History of the Crusades. Oman: The Dark Ages. Continental Legal History Series, vol. I.
Our earliest introduction to the inhabitants of that vast territory now designated as Russia comes through the Greeks, and exhibits many tribes with varied characteristics. The name Scythians was applied quite generally to the nomads of the great plains, and also to those who tilled the soil in the rich valley of the Dnieper. Many early tribes are mentioned by Herodotus and other ancient writers, the relationship of which to each other or to modern people it is not our purpose to trace. From the earliest times central and northwestern Asia has been a breeding ground, from which has issued barbaric hordes that have pushed their way in all directions and especially across the flat grassy Russian plains into Europe. Their movements have been in main migrations of tribes with all their families, cattle and belongings, seeking to escape enemies or searching for pasturage or pillage. Among the characteristics of most of these people, when first mentioned in history, are bravery, cruelty, superstition and ignorance. They scalped prisoners, drank the blood of enemies killed in battle, sacrificed slaves and horses at the funerals of dead kings, and had other horrible customs, yet it would hardly be safe to give this as a general statement of the manners which prevailed for any long period of time. It can be said however that cruelty and indiscriminate slaughter of conquered enemies has generally attended the conquests made by the swarms which from time to time have issued from this breeding ground. The peculiarities of southern Russia have rendered it possible for Asiatic hordes to pass quickly with horses, cattle and all their households from their Asiatic seats into the heart of Europe. Level plains with ample pasturage, unobstructed by mountains or great forests, have afforded a broad highway, open to all who might choose to travel it.
Pastoral tribes, moving with herds and tents, might be equally at home anywhere from the mountain slopes of central Asia to the Dnieper. The prevalence of periodical droughts and resulting failure of vegetation have compelled frequent migrations, and the necessities of their situations have driven tribe after tribe along this highway. It was the people dwelling in, or who passed through this grass land, that came in contact with Greeks and Romans and successively invaded western Europe. The dwellers in the wooded country lying to the north never come in contact with either ancient Greeks or Romans.
The foundations of the government which has since extended from the Baltic to the Pacific and from the Arctic beyond the Black Sea, were laid in the forest regions from which the great rivers flowing into the Baltic, Black and Caspian seas have their sources. The dominant race of Russia is the Slav, classed as Aryans and allied to the Germans. The next most important elements are Finns and Tartars. Intermixture has produced a composite of which the prevailing characteristics are Slavic.
The Slavs as first made known to us were at a very low stage of social development. The family was the political and social unit with the father as its patriarchal head. Polygamy was allowed, and wives were captured, with or without their consent, as a part of the marriage ceremony. The mir was an expansion of the family and under the direction of a council of elders called vetche. In its deliberations there was little of order, and a decision required the concurrence of all. The idea of the right of a majority to rule did not obtain, but the majority were forced to make such concessions to the minority as would induce them to concur, or to use some other effectual means of enforcing acquiescence. The village lands were owned in common, except the dvor or inclosure immediately about the house. A group of mirs was called a volost or pagost and was governed by a council of elders of the mirs. A chief of the volost chosen by the elders was a leader in war but with little or no power in peace. Any 'further union of different volosts was temporary, and no estab