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Art. II.-ON THE MIGRATION OF NATIONS, THE
CRUSADES, AND THE MIDDLE AGES.-From the German of SchilLER.
The system of social combination, which had its origin in the northern parts of Europe and Asia, and was established with a new race of people on the ruins of the Western Empire, has now had nearly seven hundred years in which to test itself on this wider theatre and under new relations; to unfold itself in all its nature and varieties; and to run through all its different forms and changes. The successors of the Vandals, Suevi, Alani, Goths, Heruli, Lombards, Franks, Burgundians, &c., have become at last the inhabitants of the soil which their predecessors trod with sword in hand; and the spirit of wandering and spoliation which first led them into this new Fatherland, awoke again in the eleventh century, in another shape and under other motives. Europe now hurls back on the South-West of Asia, the hordes and devastation which, seven hundred years before, she had received and suffered under, from the North of that Continent, but with very different fortune, for many as were the streams of blood it had cost the barbarians to establish a permanent dominion in Europe, as many does it now cost their Christian descendants to conquer a few towns and fortresses in Syria, which two hundred years afterwards they are to lose for ever.
The folly and madness which produced the scheme of the Crusades, and the violence which accompanied its execution, cannot well offer to an eye, whose vision is limited to the present, any temptation to dwell long upon them. But if we consider these events in connection with the centuries which preceded and with those which followed them, they appear too natural in their origin to excite our astonishment, and too beneficent in their consequences not to resolve our disgust into a totally different feeling. If we look at its causes, this expedition of the Christians to the Holy Land is so unartificial, and even so necessary a product of its age, that an entirely uneducated person, before whom the historical premises of this event were fully laid down, must of himself at once discern the result. If we look at its effects, we recognise in it the first considerable step which Superstition herself took towards amending the evils which for centuries she had inflicted on the human race, and there is perhaps no historical problem which time has more clearly solved than this ;-none, upon which the Genius who spins the thread of the world's history, has so satisfactorily justified himself to the reason of man.
From the unnatural and enervating peace into which Ancient Rome had sunk all the nations upon whom she had forced her dominion, from the effeminate slavery under which the most active powers of a numerous generation of men were stifled, we see the human race wander through the lawless, stormy freedom of the middle ages, to rest at last in the happy medium between both extremes, and beneficently to unite Freedom with Order, Peace with Activity, and Variety with harmonious Agreement.
There can scarcely be any question, whether the condition of happiness which we now enjoy, or whose approach we at least recognise with certainty, is to be regarded as an advantage gained over the most flourishing position in which the human race has been found at any former period,—and whether we have bettered ourselves in comparison with the best times of Rome and Greece. Greece and Rome could at the best produce excellent Greeks, excellent Romans; the nation, even in its highest epochs, never rose to the production of excellent Men. To the Athenian, all the world beyond Greece was a barbarian desert, and we know that this belief formed no inconsiderable addition to his happiness. The Romans were punished by their own arm, because throughout the whole vast theatre of their dominion they had left nothing remaining but Roman citizens and Roman slaves. None of our States have distributed the privileges of a Roman Citizenship, but in place of it, we have a possession which no Roman, did Romans yet remain, could understand, and we hold it from a power which takes away from none what it gives to another, and what it once gives never recalls—we possess Human Freedom :-a right that (how different from the citizen-rights of Rome !) augments in value as the numbers increase of those who partake it with us,—that, dependent on no changing form of political constitution, on no State-revolutions, rests on the firm foundations of Reason and Justice.
The advantage is thus obvious,—and the question is simply this :-Was there no nearer way to the accomplishment of this object? Could not this salutary change have been derived from the Roman State in a less violent manner, and was it necessary that the human race should traverse those melancholy periods from the fourth to the sixteenth centuries ?
Reason cannot endure a world of anarchy. Striving continually towards harmony, she will rather run into the danger of maintaining order at the expense of happiness, than want conformity altogether.
Vol. IV. No. 16.-New Series.
Was the Migration of Nations, and the Middle Ages that followed upon it, a necessary condition of our better times?
Asia can afford us some assistance on this subject. Why did no Grecian free States spring up behind the march of Alexander? Why do we see China, condemned to a mournful enduring existence, become old in endless childhood ? Because Alexander conquered humanely ;-because the small band of his Greeks disappeared among the millions of the great monarch ;--because the hordes of Mantchou were imperceptibly lost in the immensity of China. They only subdued men,—the laws and manners, the religion and the State, remained victorious. For despotically ruled States there is no salvation but in dissolution. Tenderhearted conquerors only introduce a mushroom race to nourish the sick body, and can do nothing but perpetuate its disease. If the poisoned land is not to infect the healthy vanquisher-if the German in Gaul is not to degenerate into a Roman, as the Greek at Babylon became degraded to a Persian,—the form must be broken in pieces which might become dangerous to his imitative spirit, and on the new theatre which he now treads, he must be in every respect the strongest power.
The Scythian wilderness is opened up, and pours forth a rude race upon the West. Their path is marked with blood. Cities sink behind them into ashes; the works of man's hand, and the fruits of the earth, are, with equal fury, trodden under foot; pestilence and famine follow, to complete what fire and sword have left unfinished ;—but life is only destroyed, that a better life may spring up in its room. We will not reckon against them the corpses which they heap together, nor the cities they lay in ashes. These will arise more beautiful under the hands of freedom, and a better stock of men will live within them. All the Arts of beauty and of splendour, of luxury and of refinement, perish; precious monuments designed for eternity sink to the dust; and lawless freedom madly ventures to disturb the fine mechanism of spiritual order;—but even in this wild tumult the hand of Order is at work; and whatever is allotted to future generations from among the treasures of the past, will be preserved without observation from the destructive fury of the present. A desert gloom now extends itself over these burning ruins, and the miserable fainting remnant of their inhabitants presents to a new conqueror as little resistance as temptation. The stage is thus cleared, and it is now occupied by a new
up in the forests of the North, during centuries of quiet unconsciousness, to become a re-invigorating colony to the exhausted West. Their laws, their customs, are coarse and barbarous, but in their rude way they honour that human nature,
which the monarch did not respect in his cultivated slaves. Unchanged as if he had been yet in his Salic land, and unskilled in the attainments which the subjugated Romans present to him, the Frank remains true to the laws, which made him victorious, too proud and too wise to receive the instruments of his happiness from the hands of those who were themselves unfortunate. Over the mounds where the pride of Rome lies in ashes, he stretches his nomadic tent, brandishes the iron spear, his highest property, over the vanquished soil, plants it before the judgment-seats, and even Christianity, if it will enchain the savage, must gird on the terrific sword.
And now let all foreign influences withdraw from the Child of Nature. The communications between Byzantium and Marseilles, between Alexandria and Rome, are thrown down ; the timid merchant flies towards his home, and the stranded ship lies dismantled on the shore. A waste of flood and mountain, a night of barbarous manners, welter before the entrance to Europe; the whole continent is closed round on
A lasting, severe, and remarkable conflict now begins ;-the rude German spirit struggles with the allurements of a new clime, with new passions, with the quiet power of example, with the remnants of conquered Rome, which in his new fatherland still ensnare him with a thousand nets;- and woe to the successor of a Clodian, who, seated upon Trajan's throne, imagines himself a Trajan. A thousand blades are drawn to call the Scythian desert to his remembrance. Hard is the contest between arrogance and freedom, between insolence and firmness ; craft endeavours to ensnare wisdom; the dreadful law of mere force is re-established ; and for centuries long the heated steel will not cool. A heavy night that obscures every sense, hangs over Europe, and a few sparks of light fly up, only to render the surrounding darkness more fearfully apparent. Eternal Order seems to have fled from the superintendence of the world, or, while pursuing a remote purpose, to have left the present race to its own guidance. But mother alike of all her children, she in the meanwhile protects unresisting Impotence at the foot of the Altar; and against a danger from which she cannot exempt it, she strengthens the heart with the faith of resignation. Manners she entrusts to the shelter of a barbarous Christianity, and permits an immature race to lean upon this tottering crutch, which for a stronger generation she will break in pieces. But in this protracted strife, States and Citizens become equally excited; the German Spirit defends itself powerfully against the close ensnaring despotism which crushed the too easily wearied Roman; the fountain of freedom gushes forth in a living stream ;-unconquered and secure, the later generation arrives at that better era, where, brought thither by the joint labour of fortune and of man, the light of thought and the power of determination, Insight and Heroism shall at last be united together. While Rome yet produced her Scipios and Fabii, the sages were denied her, who might have shown an aim to their virtue ;-when her sages flourished, despotism had devoured its victim, and the benefit of their appearance was lost on an enervated age. Grecian virtue, too, reached not down to the brilliant times of Pericles and Alexander, and when Haroun taught his Arabs to think, the glow of their bosoms had already grown
cold. It was a better genius that watched over modern Europe. The long military training of the middle ages had given to the sixteenth century a healthy powerful population, and had raised up able warriors to combat in the cause of Reason, who now displayed her banner.
In what other part of the earth has the head inspired the heart with ardour, and Truth * nerved the arm of the brave ?Where otherwise is the prodigy to be seen of the syllogisms of peaceful enquiries, becoming the watchwords in sanguinary battles, of the voice of self-love being silent against the power of conviction, of man, at last, making what is noblest in his estimation, also dearest to him? The loftiest exertions of Greek and Roman virtue had never overstepped the limits of civil duty, never, or only in one solitary sage, whose name is the greatest reproach of his time: the greatest sacrifice which the nation in its heroic age ever offered, was offered to the fatherland. It is only at the end of the middle ages that a devotion is recognised in Europe, which sacrifices even country itself to a higher divinity. And why is this phenomenon only seen here, and even here only once? Because only in Europe, and there only at the conclusion of the Middle Ages, the energy of Will encountered the light of Understanding, here only a still masculine race is delivered up to the arms of Wisdom.
Throughout the whole province of history, we perceive the development of States and the development of minds to observe a very different law of progress. States are annual plants which blossom in a short summer, and from fullness of juice soon
Or what man held to be Truth. It is scarcely necessary to premise, that we do not here refer to the value of the acquisition which may be made, but only to the labour of the undertaking,—to the industry, not the produce. Whatever it may be for which men struggle, it is still a conflict of Reason, for it is only through Reason that man has become conscious of his right to that for which he combats, and it is for this right alone that he desires to fight.