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Olovis was obliged to dissemble his resentment, and defer his vengeance. It was not until several months after, that, at a review,*he took an opportunity to find fault with the breaker of the vase for the bad condition of his arms. Clovis flung the soldier's ax to the ground, and whilst the latter stooped to pick up the weapon, the monarch slew him with a blow of his own, exclaiming, "Thus didst thou serve the vase of Soissons!"
Clovis, like all the heroes and eminent men of those ages, paid great respect to the church, and received considerable advantage from its aid. The Franks had been hitherto heathens; but Clovis, having married Clotilda, a Burgundian princess, became instructed in the rites and religion of the Christians. In the heat of a battle against the Germans in the neighborhood of Cologne, Clovis recalled the example of Constantine, who in a doubtful moment of action invoked the God of the Christians, and was heard. The king of the Franks imitated the example of the Roman, prayed for victory to the God of Clotilda and of Constantine, won it soon after, and was baptized, with the greater number of his followers, in grateful acknowledgment of the divine aid. Clovis had the good fortune to imbibe Christianity at its pure source. The Visigoth and Burgundian monarchs, though Christian, were Arians at this time. Clovis received the orthodox faith, which brought to him the zealous support of the Gaulish clergy, and gave to him the title of Most Christian King, worn by his successors to the present day.
The comparison between Clovis and Constantine might be followed farther. Their embracing of Christianity had a similar effect upon both. Instead of tempering their passions, and inspiring them with the virtues of mildness and mercy, it seems to have rather given rein to their ferocity and bloodthirstiness. The domestic murders committed by Constantine, that of his wife, and of his son, are known. To assassination Clovis united perfidy. All the rival monarchs or chieftains whom he could conquer or entrap were sacrificed to his jealousy and ambition. The whole race of a rival family was extirpated, in some instances, by the hand of Clovis himself. How could Christianity be made conducive to such crimes'? By being coupled with the corrupt doctrine of personal confession and absolution, which, by superseding the /oice of conscience, took away all natural obstacles to crime, and held forth, in a barbarous age, the certain prospect of impunity.
Although Clovis won a great battle over the Visigoths m Aquitaine, and obtained a nominal dominion over a portion of that nrovince, nevertheless, his kingdom cannot be said to 511. SUCCESSORS OF CLuVIS. 1 ]
have really extended beyond the Loire. His system, though favorable to conquest, was by no means so to extended sway. Whilst the Gothic and Burgundian chiefs dispersed, and settled on the soil, a considerable portion of which they forced from the native proprietor, the Franks remained in a warlike body, a kind of standing army, about their king. Even if they did scatter and divide, for the greater convenience of pasturage and provision, into winter-quarter's, in spring they never failed to reassemble in their Champ de Mars; a kind of half parliament, half review, at first used for discussing and arranging plans of conquest. But in time, as the inferior order of warriors ceased to attend and the prelates appeared there in greater numbers and influence, the national assembly gradually came to exercise judicial and legislative functions, to elect sovereigns and officers, and to sanction laws.
Clovis reigned until the year 511. He had first fixed his residence at Soissons, and was crowned in the cathedral of Rheims. About the middle of his reign he transferred the seat of sovereignty to Paris. Its central situation and security, owing to its being surrounded by the Seine, proved the wisdom of the choice. Clovis ended his days in his new capital, and was buried in the church of St. Genevieve, its patron saint, so honored for having defended it successfully by her prayers against the menaces of Attila.
The descendants of Clovis, or the Merovingians, as they are called from Merovee their supposed founder, reigned over the Franks for nearly two centuries and a half. That long period occupies but a brief space in history: its annals offer but a succession of barbarism and crime. From Clovis to Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne, there existed not a personage worthy of the reader's attention or memory; there is not recorded an event or anecdote which could excite any feeling save disgust.
Nevertheless, if we were to esteem a nation by its con quests and extent, the empire of the Franks would commana our highest consideration. The sons of Clovis subdued Burgundy and Aquitaine, and extended their dominions, with the exception of a small province round Narbonne retained by the Visigoths, to the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean in the south, whilst Switzerland, Bavaria, Saxony, and the German nations as far as the Baltic and the Elbe, acknowledged their authority towards the north. This large empire divided itself naturally into two great portions; Austrasia to the east, Neustria to the west: the former clinging to German habits, language, and independence; the latter, adopting the tongue ind manners of the Romanized Gauls, made g'reat advances in civilization, whilst it at the same time retrograded, and fell behind its Austrasian neighbor in martial spirit, and eonsequently in political influence and power. The wars, which never ceased to harass France during the reigns of the Merovingians, were kept up principally by the rivalry betwixt these two portions of the empire. In the struggle which preceded and produced the establishment of the race of Charlemagne, the Latin or western portion of France may be considered to have been reconquered by the Germans or Austrasians; and thus a fresh infusion of the ruder spirit of the Transrhenane race came to invigorate the already degenerated Franks of Gaul.
The race of Clovis became effete from gross licentiousness, and was thinned by mutual slaughter. As is the case with the Turks of the present day, the first act of a monarch was to put to death his brothers, uncles, and nephews. Consanguinity, instead of being a bond of attachment, was the cause of a deadly and always fatal enmity. Such a succession of murders naturally produced the reigns of kings under age. Monarchs or monarchs' sons could not long escape the sword of the assassin: whilst to intrust an infant king to the care of one of his own race, or of royal blood, even if such survived, was to deliver him to certain destruction. Hence came the necessity of electing regents amongst the Frank chiefs. The office fell to the only magistrate or minister existing in that rude state of society. This was the mord-dom, or major domns, as it is rendered in Latin, who was at once a royal judge and a kind of steward of the household. At one time appointed by the king, at another chosen by the aristocracy, the major domus, or mayor of the palace, soon became more formidable than the monarch himself. And when, during a long minority, he had legally exercised the royal functions, the mayor found it not difficult to prolong his power by reducing his ward and sovereign to imbecility, through physical indulgence and the absence of education, as well as by other obvious arts calculated to strengthen his own personal influence. The family of Pepin succeeded in rendering the office hereditary in their race, and long wielded the power, without assuming the name and honors, of royalty. These belonged to the race chcvelue, the long-haired race, as the descendants of Clovis were called, from the custom of never cutting the locks of the young princes. In the year 752, Pepin at length threw off the mask, dethroned Childeric III., the roi faineant or mock king of the moment, and the last of the Merovingians, and caused himself to be crowned m the presence of the assembled nation. As his right, Pepin pleaded the long possession of all the realities of reWil nowoi
752. VIEW OF SOCIETY 1 %
in his family: to this he added the free election of his countrymen; but, above all, he relied upon a bull issued by pope Zachary, which declared him the legitimate monarch of the Franks. It was upon this occasion that the popes first assumed that usurped right, which they afterwards so used and abused, of throning and dethroning kings.
Previous to entering upon the reign of Charlemagne,— that great epoch from whence modern history dates,—it is advisable to take a brief view of that new state of society, then in its infant growth, which, in the prodigious development that ourselves and our fathers have witnessed, so differed from, and so surpassed, that of all preceding* ages. We shall thus afford the reader a clew which may guide him through the perplexed mazes of fact and event—give him a scale by which he can mark the progress of society—and make him acquainted with those hidden springs of action, which can be observed in masses of men as well as in individuals.
Four chief powers will be found, on examination, to influence and divide political society,—the kingly, the sacerdotal, the aristocratic, and the democratic. The necessary limits of this work will not allow space to prove the justice and accuracy of this division, or to explain the foundation of its principles in human nature. In the records of antiquity we can never find the example of a state in which these powers were all and separately developed. In very remote times, the regal and sacerdotal powers were most generally united, or subject one to the other;—united, as in the race of the caliphs; royalty subject to the priesthood, as in ancient Egypt, and vice versa, as many examples show. In the oriental monarchies, of ancient as of modern times, democracy is of course null; aristocracy, deprived of hereditary rights, but an ephemeral and insecure distinction.
In the republics of Greece and Rome, society took another course. Royalty was abolished; the sacerdotal power was united and rendered subservient to the patrician; the democratic itself was much less in action than we are given to suppose. In the palmy days of the Roman and Athenian republics, wiien the lands of Italy and Attica were cultivated, and almost solely inhabited by slaves, the free and privileged citizens of the commonwealth can scarcely be regarded in any other light than in that of a dominant and cruel aristocracy. Their poverty, their moblike character and attributes, cannot save them from the odious appellation.
In Europe, and in modern times alone, were the four principles fully and separately developed, and the classes which they respectively animate raised into independent existence. From the balance of power kept up between these, jtheir mutual jealousies, alliances, collisions, have principally arisen the superior civilization and policy of Europe. Such is the great characteristic that distinguishes modern from ancien society. It is the great fact to be borne in mind—the grea key for solving many a political problem.
If it be asked, why these natural principles of social amelioration lay, some of them at least, dormant in ancient, whilst they were completely developed only in modern times; the answer is, there was one great cause producing, but many minor ones aiding. The new world certainly profited by the example of the old. Traditions of liberty, of law, and of social order, floated down from the wreck of Roman greatness to dark and barbarous times, when they were gathered, and helped to build up the fabric of a new state. From the forests of Germany, too, and the savage life of hunter and pastor, the invading tribes themselves brought the germs of more political wisdom than could have been hoped for,—those of monarchy without despotism, of allegiance without the sacrifice of personal independence. But the great and leading cause, which antiquity may be said to have wanted altogether, was Christianity.
No doubt the Christian religion, having man for its agent, has been accompanied by many evils, and has been perverted to grievous abuses; but the observer of history, amidst the many crimes and ills which he will have to lay to the charge of some of the agents in its promotion, cannot avoid at the same time confessing that, even when so perverted, it still was productive of inestimable and often unperceived good; and that to it principally, above all other causes, is owing the superior state of modern morals, liberty, and civilization. This is an assertion of which the proofs must be sought in the ensuing pages. But we may anticipate so far as to observe, that had Christianity done no more than to war with polygamy and slavery, as it did, to the abolition of both, it would fully deserve the praise here bestowed. Nothing contributed so much to change the face of Europe, and to beetow upon it its present benign and happy aspect, as the raising of one half of mankind to their natural equality and rights, and by the same act rescuing the other from the inhumanity and barbarism ever characterizing the despotic masters of their fellow-men. The abolition of slavery, without effecting which it would have been idle preaching against pofygamy, instantly raised woman in the scale of being. From this alone sprung all the virtues of chivalry, whilst those of private and domestic life were created anew. It was then that a brighter charm spread around the hearth,—