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readers, that the plan must still appear to them too extensive, and the undertaking too arduous. I have often felt them to be so. But my conviction of the utility of such a history prompted me to persevere. With what success I have executed it, the Public must now judge. I wait, not without solitude, for its decision ; to which I shall submit with a respectful silence.
SUBVERSION OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, TO THE BEGINNING
OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY.
View of the Progress of Society in Europe, with respect to in.
terior Government, Laws, and Manners.
of the Ro.
Two great revolutions have happened in the political SECT. state and in the manners of the European nations. The first was occasioned by the progress of the Roman power ; The effects the second by the subversion of it. When the spirit of me conquest led the armies of Rome beyond the Alps, they on the state found all the countries which they invaded inhabited by of Europe. people whom they denominated barbarians, but who were nevertheless brave and independent. These defended their ancient possessions with obstinate valour. It was by the superiority of their discipline, rather than that of their courage, that the Romans gained any advantage over them. A single battle did not, as among the effeminate inhabitants of Asia, decide the fate of a state. The vanquished people resumed their arms with fresh spirit, and their undisciplined valour, animated by the love of liberty, supplied the want of conduct as well as of union. During those long and fierce struggles for VOL. I.
SECT. dominion or independence, the countries of Europe were
successively laid waste, a great part of their inhabitants The desola- perished in the field, many were carried into slavery, and
h. a feeble remnant, incapable of further resistance, submitit occasioned, ted to the Roman power. The im. The Romans having thus desolated Europe, set themprovements selves to civilize it. The form of government which they which it introduced. established in the conquered provinces, though severe,
was regular, and preserved public tranquillity. As a consolation for the loss of liberty, they communicated their arts, sciences, language, and manners, to their new subjects. Europe began to breathe, and to recover strength after the calamities which it bad undergone ; agriculture was encouraged ; population increased ; the ruined cities were rebuilt ; new towns were founded ; an appearance of prosperity succeeded and repaired, in some
degree, the havoc of war. The bad This state, however, was far from being happy or faconsequen- vourable to the improvement of the human mind. The ces of their dominion. vanquished nations were disarmed by their conquerors,
and overawed by soldiers kept in pay to restrain them.
They were given up as a prey to rapacious governors, who plundered them with impunity; and were drained of their wealth by exorbitant taxes, levied with so little attention to the situation of the provinces, that the im. positions were often increased in proportion to their inability to support them. They were deprived of their inost enterprising citizens, who resorted to a distant capital in quest of preferment or of riches ; and were accustomed in all their actions to look up to a superior, and tamely to receive bis commands. Under so many depressing circumstances, it was hardly possible that they could retain vigour or generosity of mind. The martial and independent spirit, which had distinguished their ancestors, became, in a great measure, extinct among all the people subjected to the Roman yoke : they lost not only the babit but even the capacity of deciding for themselves, or of acting from the impulse of their own minds; and the dominion of the Romans, like that of all great SECT. empires, degraded and debased the human species.*
A society in such a state could not subsist long. The irrupThere were defects in the Roman government, even in its tion of the
barbarous most perfect form, which threatened its dissolution. Time nations. ripened these original seeds of corruption, and gave birth to many new disorders. A constitution, unsound, and worn out, must have fallen into picces of itself, without any external shock. The violent irruption of the Goths, Vandals, Huns, and other barbarians, hastened this event, and precipitated the downfal of the empire. New nations seemed to arise, and to rush from unknown regions, in order to take vengeance on the Romans for the calamities which they had inflicted on mankind. These fierce tribes either inbabited the various provinces in Gere many which had never been subdued by the Romans, or were scattered over those vast countries in the north of Europe, and north-west of Asia, which are now occupied by the Danes, the Swedes, the Poles, the subjects of the Russian empire, and the Tartars. Their condition and transactions, previous to their invasion of the empire, are but little known. Almost all our information with respect to these is derived from the Romans ; and as they did not penetrate far into countries which were at that time uncultivated and uninviting, the accounts of their original state given by the Roman historians are extremely imperfect. The rude inhabitants themselves, destitute of science, as well as of records, and without leisure, or curiosity, to inquire into remote events, retain. ed, perhaps, some indistinct memory of recent occurren. ces, but beyond these, all was buried in oblivion, or in. yolved in darkness and in fable.t
The prodigious swarms which poured in upon the State of the empire from the beginning of the fourth century to the co
from which final extinction of the Roman power, have given rise to they issued. an opinion that the countries whence they issued were crowded with inhabitants; and various theories baye
* NOTE 1.
+ NOTE 11.
SECT. been formed to account for such an extraordinary degree
of population as hath produced these countries the ap-' pellation of the storehouse of nations. But if we consider, that the countries possessed by the people who invaded the empire were of vast extent ; that a great part of these was covered with woods and marshes; that some of the most considerable of the barbarous nations subsisted entirely by hunting or pasturage, in both which states of society large tracts of land are required for maintaining a few inbabitants; and that all of them were strangers to the arts and industry, without which population cannot increase to any great degree, we must conclude, that these countries could not be so populous in ancient times as they are in the present, when they still continue
to be less peopled than any other part of Europe or Asia. The people. But the same circumstances that prevented the bar
for darbarous nations from becoming populous, contributed to ing enterprises. inspire, or to strengthen, the martial spirit by which they
were distinguished. Inured by the rigour of their climate, or the poverty of their soil, to hardships wbich rendered their bodies firm, and their minds vigorous ; accus. tomed to a course of life which was a continual preparation for action; and disdaining every occupation but that of war or of hunting ; they undertook and proseeuted their military enterprises with an ardour and impetuosity, of which men softened by the refinements of more
polished times can scarcely form any idea. * The mo- Their first inroads into the empire proceeded rather
from the love of plunder, than from the desire of new their first ons. settlements. Roused to arms by some enterprising or
popular leader, they sallied out of their forest ; broke in upon the frontier provinces with irresistible violence; put all who opposed them to the sword ; carried off the most valuable effects of the inhabitants; dragged along multitudes of captives in chains ; wasted all before them with fire or- sword ; and returned in triumph to their wilds and fastnesscs. Their success, together with the accounts
* NOTE III,