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BOOK the ingenious labours of industry, the energies of war, the researches of science, and the richest

productions of genius.

This improved state has been slowly attained under the discipline of very diversified events. The first gradation of the happy progress was effected during that period, which it is the object of this work to elucidate.

The destruction of the Roman Empire of the West by the German nations has been usually lamented as a barbarisation of the human mind; a period of misery, darkness, and ruin ; as a replunging of society into the savage chaos

chaos from which it had so slowly escaped, and from which, through increased evils and obstacles, it had again to emerge. This view of the political and moral phenomena of this remarkable epoch is not correct. It suits neither the true incidents that preceded or accompanied, nor those which followed this mighty revolution. And our notions of the course of human affairs have been made more confused and unscientific by this exaggerated declamation, and by the inaccurate perceptions which have occasioned it.

The conquest and partition of the Western Roman Empire by the Nomadic nations of Germany was, in fact, a new and beneficial re-casting of human society in all its classes, functions, manners, and pursuits. The civilisation of mankind had been carried in the previous Roman world to the fullest extent to which the then existing means of human improvement could be urged. That this had long been stationary, and for some time retrograding, the philosophical examiner into the government, literature, religion, public habits, and


private morals of the Roman Empire, will, if he CHAP. make his researches sufficiently minute and extensive, be satisfactorily convinced. Hence, either the progress of mankind must have been stopped, and their corrupting civilisation have stagnated or feebly rolled on towards its own barbarisation, or some extensive revolution must have broken up the existing system of universal degeneracy, and began a new career of moral agency and social melioration. The fact is incontestable that this latter state has been the result of the irruptions and established kingdoms of the Teutonic tribes; and this visible consequence of their great movement should terminate our dark and querulous descriptions of this momentous period, which suit rather the age and mind of a doleful Gildas than of an enlightened student of history of the nineteenth century.

That the invasions of the Roman Empire by the warlike tribes of the North was attended with great sufferings to mankind at the time of their occurrence is strictly true ; but these calamities were not greater than those which all the wars of the ancient world had produced to almost every people in whose territory they had been waged. The hostilities of Rome against Carthage, against Gaul under Cæsar, and against Germany from the time of Drusus to the days of Stilicho, not to mention many others, had been as fatal to the Carthaginians, Gauls, and Germans, as those of the fierce invaders of the fourth and fifth centuries were to the then population of the debased Western Empire. The destruction of human life and comfort in the regions attacked were the same when the Romans invaded the barbarians, as when the latter retaliated


their aggressions. War itself must cease, from the increasing wisdom and virtue of mankind, before such calamities will disappear; but it is consolatory to human reason to observe, that, while the moral imperfections of the world operate to continue it, a benevolent order of things compels even its mischiefs to produce good ; and, if this view of such periods be not taken, we shall never attain the discernment of the true philosophy of the moral government of the world.

That the settlements of the German kingdoms in the Roman Empire were not so calamitous to the world as so many have supposed, is most forcibly implied by the intimations, before mentioned, from Salvian, that many Romans emigrated from their own parental empire to place themselves under the barbaric governments, that they might escape the oppressions of the Roman collectors of the imperial taxations. The barbaric establishments were a new order of things in Europe, but cannot have been so prolific of misery to mankind as we have hitherto too gratuitously assumed; when, notwithstanding the discouragement of new languages and institutions, and ruder habits, they were preferred by many to the country which was their birth-place, which had been so long consecrated by deserved fame, and whose feelings, mind, and social manners, were congenial to their own.

The invasions of the German nations destroyed the ancient governments, and political and legal systems of the Roman Empire in the provinces in which they established themselves; and dispossessed the former proprietors of their territorial property. A new set of land-owners was diffused over every country, with new forms of government, new prin


ciples, and new laws, new religious disciplines and CHAP. hierarchies, with many new tenets and practices. A new literature, and new manners, all productive of great improvements, in every part superseded the old, and gave to Europe a new face, and to every class of society a new life and spirit. In the Anglo-Saxon settlements in Britain all these effects were displayed with the most beneficial consequences; and we will endeavour to delineate them as clearly as the distance of time, and the imperfections of our remaining documents, will permit us to discern them.

The Anglo-Saxons must have been materially improved in their manners and mental associations by the civilisation to which Britain had attained at the time of their invasion, from the Roman government and intercourse, and which has been alluded to in the former part of this work.

The first great change in the Anglo-Saxons appeared in the discontinuance of their piracies. They ceased to be the ferocious spoilers of the ocean and its coasts; they became land-owners, agriculturists, and industrious citizens; they seized and divided the acquisitions of British affluence, and made the commonalty of the island their slaves. Their war-leaders became territorial chiefs; and the conflicts of capricious and sanguinary robbery were exchanged for the possession and inheritance of property in its various sorts ; for trades and manufactures, for useful luxuries, peaceful industry, and domestic comfort.

We will proceed to consider them as they displayed their manners and customs during their occupation of England, and before the Norman conquest introduced new institutions.


Their tenderest and most helpless years were under the care of females. The gratitude of Edgar to his nurse appears, from his rewarding with grants of land the noble lady, wife of an ealdorman, who had nursed and educated him with maternal attention.' This was not unusual: Ethelstan, an Anglo-Saxon ætheling, says, in his will, “I give to Alfswythe, my foster-mother, for her great deservingness, the lands of Wertune, that I bought of my father for two hundred and fifty mancusa of gold by weight.”?

They had infant baptism : hence the Saxon homily says, “though the cild for youth may not speak when men baptize it."3 They were enjoined to baptize their children within thirty days after birth. They baptized by immersion ; for when Ethelred was plunged in, the royal infant disgraced himself. They used the cradle. It is mentioned in the laws, of a person of the dignity of a gesithcund man, that when he travelled he might have with him his gerefas, his smith, and his child's nurse. Kings sometimes stood as godfathers; and their laws so venerated this relationship, as to establish peculiar provisions to punish the man who slew another's godson or godfather.” On the death of the father, the children were ordered to remain under the care of the mother, who was to provide them with sustenance; for this she was to be allowed six shillings, a cow in summer, and an ox in winter ; but his relations were to occupy the

1 Hist. Rames. 3 Gale, x.

Script. 387. 405. 2 Sax. Dict. App.

3 Wanley, Catal. Sax. p. 196. 4 Wilkins, Leg. Anglo-Sax. p. 14. 5 Tha cıld the læg on tham cradele. Ibid. p. 145. 6 Wilkins, p. 25.

* Ibid. p. 26.

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