Jacques Maritain Center : Greatest of Centuries


Democracy is a word to conjure with but it is usually considered that the thing it represents had its origin in the modern world much later than the period with which we are occupied. The idea that the people should be ready to realize their own rights, to claim their privileges and to ask that they should be allowed to rule themselves, is supposed ordinarily to be a product of the last century or two. Perhaps in this matter more than any other does the Thirteenth Century need interpretation to the modern mind, yet we think that after certain democratic factors and developments in the life of this period are pointed out and their significance made clear, it will become evident that the foundations of our modern democracy were deeply laid in the Thirteenth Century, and that the spirit of what was best in the aspiration of people to be ruled by themselves, for themselves, and of themselves had its birth in this precious seed time of so much that is important for our modern life.

Lest it should be thought that this idea of the development of democracy has been engendered merely in the enthusiastic ardor of special admiration for the author's favorite century, it seems well to call attention to the fact that historians in recent years have very generally emphasized the role that the Thirteenth Century played in the development of freedom. A typical example may be quoted from the History of Anglo-Saxon Freedom by Professor James K. Hosmer,{1} who does not hesitate to say that "while in England representative government was gradually developing during this century, in Germany the cities were beginning to send deputies to the Imperial Parliament and the Emperor, Frederick II., was allowing a certain amount of representation in the Government of Sicily. In Spain, Alfonso the Wise, of Castile, permitted the cities to send representatives to the Cortez, and in France this same spirit developed to such a degree that a representative parliament met at the beginning of the Fourteenth Century." In none of these countries, however, unfortunately did the spirit of representative government continue to develop as in England and in many of them the privileges obtained in the Thirteenth Century were subsequently lost.

Certain phases of the rise of the democratic spirit have already been discussed, and the reader can only be referred to them now with the definite idea of recognizing in them the democratic tendencies of the time. What we have said about the trade guilds constitutes one extremely important element of the movement which will be further discussed in this chapter. After this comes the guild merchant in its various forms. After all the Hanseatic League was only one manifestation of these guilds. Its widespread influence in awakening in people's minds the realization that they could do for themselves much more, and secure success in their endeavors much better by their own united efforts, than by anything that their accepted political rulers could do or at least would do for them, will be readily appreciated by all who read that chapter.

Hansa must have been a great enlightener for the Teutonic peoples. The History of the league shows over and over again their political rulers rather interfering with than fostering their commercial prosperity. These rulers were always more than a little jealous of the wealth which the citizens of these growing towns in their realm were able to accumulate, and they showed it on more than one occasion. The history of the Hansa towns exhibits the citizens doing everything to dissemble the feelings of disaffection that inevitably came to them as the result of their appreciation of the fact, that they could rule themselves so much better than they were being ruled, and that they could accomplish so much more for themselves by their commercial combination with other cities than had ever been done for them by these hereditary princes, who claimed, so much yet gave so little in their turn.

The training in self-government that came with the necessities for defense as well as for the protection of commercial visitors from other cities in the league, who trustfully came to deal with their people, was an education in democracy such as could not fail to bring results. The rise of the free cities in Germany represents the growth of the democratic spirit down to our own time, better than any other single set of manifestations that we have. The international relations of these cities did more, as we have said, to broaden men's minds and make them realize the brotherhood of man in spite of national boundaries than any other factor in human history. Commerce has always been a great leveler and such it proved to be in these early days in Germany, only it must not be thought that these German cities had but faint glimmerings of the great purpose they were engaged in, for, seldom has the spirit of popular government risen higher than with them.

How clearly the Teutonic mind had grasped the idea of democracy can be best appreciated perhaps from the attitude of the Swiss in this matter. These hardy mountaineers whose difficult country and rather severe climate separate them effectually from the other nations, soon learned the advisability of ruling themselves for their own benefit. Before the end of the Thirteenth Century they had formed a defensive and offensive union among themselves against the Hapsburgs, and though for a time overborne by the influence of this house after its head ascended the Imperial throne, immediately on Rudolph's death they proceeded to unite themselves still more firmly together. They then formed the famous league of 1291 which represents so important a step in the democracy of modern times. The formal document which constituted this league a federal government deserves to be quoted. It is the first great declaration of independence, and its ideas were to crop out in many another declaration in the after times. It is an original document in the strictest sense of the word. It runs as follows:

"Know all men that we, the people of the valley of Un, the community of the valley of Schwiz, and the mountaineers of the lower valley, seeing the malice of the times, have solemnly agreed and bound ourselves by oath to aid and defend each other with all our might and main, with our lives and property, both within and without our boundaries each at his own expense, against every enemy whatever who shall attempt to molest us, either singly or collectively. This is our ancient covenant. Whoever hath a lord let him obey him according to his bounden duty. We have decreed that we shall accept no magistrate in our valleys who shall have obtained his office for a price. or who is not a native or resident among us. Every difference among us shall be decided by our wisest men; and whoever shall reject their award shall be compelled by the other confederates. Whoever shall wilfully commit a murder shall suffer death, and he who shall attempt to screen the murderer from justice shall be banished from our valleys. An incendiary shall lose his privileges as a free member of the community, and whoever harbors him shall make good the damage. Whoever robs or molests another shall make full restitution out of the property he possesses among us. Everyone shall acknowledge the authority of a chief magistrate in either of the valleys. If internal quarrels arise, and one of the parties shall refuse fair satisfaction, the confederates shall support the other party. This covenant for our common weal, shall, God willing, endure forever."

In England democracy was fostered in the guilds, which, as we have already seen in connection with the cathedrals, proved the sources of education and intellectual development in nearly every mode of thought and art. The most interesting feature of these guilds was the fact that they were not institutions suggested to the workmen and tradesmen by those above them, but were the outgrowth of the spirit of self help and organization which came over mankind during this century. At the beginning they were scarcely more than simple beneficial associations meant to be aids in times of sickness and trial, and to make the parting of families and especially the death of the head of the family not quite so difficult for the survivors, since affiliated brother workmen remained behind who would care for them. During this century, however, the spirit of democracy, that is the organized effort of the people to take care of themselves, better their conditions, and add to their own happiness, led to the development of the guilds in a fashion that it is rather difficult for generations of the modern time to understand, for our trades' unions do not, as yet at least, present anything that quite resembles their work in our times.

It was because of the effective social work of these guilds that Urbain Gohier, the well-known French socialist and writer on sociological subjects, was able to say not long ago in the North American Review:

"When the workmen of the European Continent demand 'the three eights' -- eight hours of work, eight hours of rest and refreshment, physical and mental, and eight hours of sleep -- some of them are aware of the fact that this reform already exists in the Anglo-Saxon countries; but all are ignorant of this other fact that, during the Middle Ages, in an immense number of labor corporations and cities, a work-day was often only nine, eight and even seven hours long. Nor have they ever been told that every Saturday, and on the eve of over two dozen holidays, work was stopped everywhere at four o'clock." The Saturday half holiday began it may be said even earlier, namely at the Vesper Hour which according to medieval church customs was some time between two and three p. m. and the same was true on the vigils, as the eves of the important church festivals were called.

The only possible way to give a reasonably good idea of the spirit of the old-time guilds which succeeded in accomplishing such a wonderful social revolution, is to quote some of their rules, which serve to show their intents and purposes at least, even though they may not always have fulfilled their aims. Their rules regard two things particularly -- the religious and the social functions of the guild. There was a fine for absence from the special religious services held for the members but also a fine of equal amount for absence from the annual banquet. In this they resemble the rules of the religious orders which were coming to be widely known at the end of the Twelfth and the beginning of the Thirteenth Century, and according to which the members of the religious community were required quite as strictly to be present at daily recreation, that is, at the hour of conversation after meals, as at daily prayer. An interesting phase of the social rules of the guild is that a member was expected to bring his wife with him, or if not his wife then his sweetheart. They were franker in these matters in this simpler age and doubtless the custom encouraged matrimony a little bit more than our modern colder customs.

As giving a fair idea of the ordinances of the pre-Reformation guilds in their original shape the rules of the Guild of St. Luke at Lincoln, may be cited. St. Luke had been chosen as patron because according to tradition he was an artist as well as an evangelist. The patron saint was chosen always so that he might be a model of life as well as a protector in Heaven. Its members were the painters, guilders, stainers, and alabaster men of the city. The first rule provides that on the Sunday next after the feast of St. Luke all the brothers and sisters of the Guild shall, with their officers, go in procession from an appointed place, carrying a great candle, to the Cathedral Church of Lincoln, and there every two of the brethren and sisters shall offer one half-penny or more after their devotion, and then shall offer the great candle before an image of St. Luke within the church. And any who were absent without lawful cause shall forfeit one pound of wax to the sustentation of the said great candle.

On the same Sunday, "for love and amity and good communication to be had for the several weal of the fraternity," the guildmen dined together, every brother paying for himself and his wife, or sweetheart, the sum of four pence. Absentees were fined one pound of wax towards the aforesaid candle.

The third rule provided that four "mornspeeches" -- that its business meetings -- should be held each year, "for ordering and good rule to be had and made amongst them." Absentees from a mornspeech forfeited one pound of wax to St. Luke's candle. Another rule provided that the decision of ambiguities or doubts about the forfeitures prescribed should be referred to the mayor and four aldermen of the city. Rules 4 to 11, and also 13, regulate the taking of apprentices and the setting up in trade; forbid the employing of strangers; provide for the settlement of disputes and the examination of work not sufficiently done after the sample. Already the tendency to limit the number of workmen that might be employed which was later to prove a stumbling block to artistic progress is to be noted. On the other hand the effort to keep work up to a certain standard, which was to mean so much for artistic accomplishment in the next few generations must be noted as a compensatory feature of the Guild regulations.

Rule 12 directs that "when it shall happen any brother or sister of the said fraternity to depart and decease from the world, at his first Mass the gracemen and wardens (skyvens) for the time being shall offer of the goods and chattels of the said fraternity, two pence; and at his eighth day, or thirtieth day, every brother and sister shall give to a poor creature a token made by the dean, for which tokens every brother and sister shall pay the dean a fixed sum of money, and with the money thus raised he shall buy white bread to give to the poor creatures holding the tokens, the bread to be distributed at the church of the parish in which the deceased lived.

This twelfth rule with regard to the manner of giving charity is particularly striking, because it shows a deliberate effort to avoid certain dangers, the evil possibilities of which our modern organized charity has emphasized. According to this rule of the Guild of St. Luke's at Lincoln, all the members were bound to give a certain amount in charity, for the benefit of a deceased member. This was not, however, by direct alms, but by means of tokens for which they paid a fixed price to the Dean, who redeemed the tokens when they were presented by the deserving poor. This guaranteed that each member would give the fixed sum in charity and at the same time safeguarded the almsgiving from any abuses, since the member of the guild himself would be likely to know something of the poor person and his deservingness, and if not there was always the question of the Dean being informed with regard to the needs of the case. All of this was accomplished, however, without hurting the feelings of the recipients of the charity, since they felt that it was done not for them but for the benefit of a deceased member. How much the guilds came to influence the life of the people during the next two centuries may be best appreciated from their great increase in number and wealth.

In England, it is computed that at the beginning of the Sixteenth Century there were thirty thousand of these institutions spread over the country. The county of Norfolk alone had nine hundred, of which number the small town of Wymondham had at least eleven still known by names, one -- the Guild of Holy Trinity, Wymondham -- being possessed of a guild-hall of its own, whilst it and the other guilds of the town are said to have been "well endowed with lands and tenements." In Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, there were twenty-three guilds; Boston, Lincolnshire, had fourteen, of which the titles and other particulars are known, whilst in London their number must have been very great. Of the London trade guilds, Stow, the Elizabethan antiquary, records the names of sixty of sufficient importance to entitle their representatives to places at the civic banquets in the reign of Henry VIII. Many of them are still in existence, having been spared at the time of the Reformation on the plea that they were trading or secular associations. Fifteen of the largest of them -- including the merchant tailors, the goldsmiths and the stationers -- have at the present time an annual income of over $50,000 each.

The reasons for their popularity can be readily found in the many social needs which they cared for. Socialistic cooperation has, perhaps, never been carried so far as in these medieval institutions which were literally "of the people, by the people, and for the people." Often their regulation made provisions for insurance against poverty, fire, and sometimes against burglary. Frequently they provided schoolmasters for the schools. Their funds they loaned out to needy brethren in small sums on easy terms, whilst trade and other disputes likely to give rise to ill-feeling and contention were constantly referred to the guilds for arbitration. One of the rules of the Guild of our Lady at Wymondham thus ordains, that for no manner of cause should any of the brothers or sisters of the fraternity go to law till the officers of the guild had been informed of the circumstances and had done their best to settle the dispute and restore "unity and love betwixt the parties." To assist at the burial of deceased brethren, and to aid in providing for the celebration of obits for the repose of their souls, were duties incumbent on all, defaulters without good excuse being subject to fines and censure.

It must not be thought that these tendencies to true democracy were confined to the trades guilds, however. The historian of the merchant guilds has demonstrated that they had the same spirit and this was especially true for the great guild merchant. He says:

"To this category of powerful affinities must be added the Gild Merchant. The latter was from the outset a compact body emphatically characterized by fraternal solidarity of interests, a protective union that naturally engendered a consciousness of strength and a spirit of independence. As the same men generally directed the counsels of both the town and the Gild, there would be a gradual, unconscious extension of the unity of the one to the other, the cohesive force of the Gild making itself felt throughout the whole municipal organism. But the influence of the fraternity was material as well as moral. It constituted a bond of union between the heterogeneous sokes (classes of tenants) of a borough; the townsmen might be exclusively amenable to the courts of different lords, but, if engaged in trade within the town, they were all members of one and the same Gild Merchant. The independent regulation of trade also accustomed the burgesses to self-government, and constituted an important step toward autonomy; the town judiciary was always more dependent upon the crown or mesne lord than was the Gild Merchant."

Because of the supreme interest in everything connected with Shakespeare, the existence of one of the most important guilds in Stratford, has led to the illustration of guilds' works there better than for any English town during this period. The Guild of the Holy Cross was the most important institution of Stratford and enthusiastic Shakespeare scholars have applied themselves to find out every detail of its history as far as it is now available, in order to make clear the conditions -- social and religious -- that existed in the great dramatist's birthplace. Halliwell, in his Descriptive Calendar of the Records of Stratford on Avon, and Sidney Lee, in his Stratford on Avon in the Time of the Shakespeares, have gathered together much of this information: -- "The Guild has lasted, wrote its chief officer in 1309, for many, many years and its beginning was from time whereunto the memory of man reaches not." Bowden, in his volume on the Religion of Shakespeare, has a number of the most important details with regard to Stratford's Guild. The earliest extant documents with regard to it are from the Reign of Henry III., 1216-1272, and include a deed of gift by one William Sede, of a tenement to the Guild, and an indulgence granted October 7th, 1270, by Giffard, Bishop of Wooster, of forty days to all sincere penitents who after having duly confessed had conferred benefits on the Guild.

By the close of the reign of Edward I., at the beginning of the Fourteenth Century, the Guild was wealthy in houses and lands, and the foundation was laid of its chapel and almshouses which, with the hall of meeting -- the "Rode or Reed Hall" -stood where the Guild Hall is at the present day. Edward III. and Richard II., during the Fourteenth Century, confirmed the rights of the Guild and even added to its privileges. Though it was a purely local institution, the fame of its good works had spread so wide during these next centuries that affiliation with it became a distinction, and the nobility were attracted to its ranks. George, Duke of Clarence, brother of Edward, with his wife and children, and the Earl of Warwick, and the Lady Margaret were counted among its members, and merchants of distant towns counted it an honor to belong to it. Later, also, Judge Littleton, one of the famous founders of English law, was on its roll of membership.

The objects of the Guild were many and varied and touched the social life of Stratford at every point. The first object was mutual prayer. The Guild maintained five priests or chaplains who were to say masses daily, hour by hour, from six to ten o'clock for its members, it being expected that some of them would be present at each of the masses. Out of the fees of the Guild one wax candle was to be kept alight every day throughout the year at every mass in the church before the rood, or cross, "so that God and our Blessed Virgin and the Venerated Cross may keep and guard all the brethren and sisters of the Guilds from every ill." The second object was charity, under which was included all the various Works of Mercy. The needs of any brother or sister who had fallen into poverty or been robbed were to be provided for "as long as he bears himself rightly towards the brethren." When a brother died all the brethren were bound to follow the body to the church and to pray for his soul at its burial. The Guild candle and eight smaller ones were to be kept burning by the body from the time of death till the funeral. When a poor man died in the town the brethren and sisters were, for their soul's health, to find four wax candles, a sheet, and a hearse cloth for the corpse. This rule also applied in the event of a stranger's death, if the stranger had not the necessary means for burial. Nor were the efforts of the Guild at Stratford devoted solely to the alleviation of the ills of mankind and the more serious purposes of life. Once a year, in Easter Week, a feast of the members was held in order to foster peace and true brotherly love among them. At this time offerings were made for the poor in order that they too might share in the happiness of the festival time. There was attendance at church before the feasting and a prayer was offered by all the "brethren and sisters that God and our Blessed Virgin and the Venerated Cross in whose honor we have come together will keep us from all ills and sins." This frequent reference to the Cross will be better understood if it is recalled that the Guild at Stratford bore the name of the Guild of the Holy Cross, and the figure of the crucified One was one of its most respected symbols and: was always looked upon as a special object of veneration on the part of the members.

The thoroughly progressive spirit of the Guild at Stratford will perhaps be best appreciated by the modern mind from the fact, that to it the town owed the foundation of its famous free school. During the Thirteenth and Fourteenth centuries the study of grammar, and of the various theoretical branches, was not considered the essential part of an education. Gradually, however, there had arisen the feeling that all the children should be taught the ground-work of the vulgar tongue, and that those whose parents wished it should receive education in Latin also; hence the establishment of grammar schools, that at Stratford being founded for the children of the members of the Guild about the middle of the Fifteenth Century. This was only the normal development of the earlier spirit of the Guild which enabled it to meet the growing social needs of the time. It was at this school, as reconstituted under Edward VI., that Shakespeare was educated, and the reestablishment by Edward was only in response to the many complaints which arose because of the absence of the school after its suppression by Henry VIII. The fact that Shakespeare was educated at an Edward VI. grammar school, has often given occasion for commentators to point out that it was practically the Reformation in England which led to the establishment of free schools. Any such suggestion, however, can be made only in complete ignorance of the preexisting state of affairs in which the people, by organization, succeeded in accomplishing so much for themselves.

As a matter of fact the Guild at Stratford, as in most of the towns in England -- for we have taken this as an example only because it is easier to get at the details of its history -- was the most important factor in the preservation of social order, in the distribution of charity, in the providing of education, and even the maintenance of the security of the life and property of its inhabitants. When it was dissolved, in 1547, Stratford found itself in a chaotic state and had to petition Edward VI. to reconstitute the Guild as a civil corporation, which he did by charter in 1553.

After this consideration of the guilds and their purpose and success, it is no wonder that we should declare that the wind of the spirit of democracy was blowing in England and carrying away the old landmarks of absolute, government. It is to the spirit thus fostered that must be attributed the marvelous progress in representative government, the steps of which we recall.

In 1215, all England united against the odious John Lackland and obliged him to grant the Magna Charta -- a declaration of national liberty.

In 1257, the Provisions of Oxford, under Henry III., established, for the moment, the stated recurrence of the great national council of Parliament.

In 1265, under the same Prince, the earl of Leicester admitted to Parliament the knights of the shire and the representatives of the townspeople, who formed later the lower house, or House of Commons, while those personally sunimoned to attend by the king from the great nobles formed the upper house, or House of Lords.

Beginning with the year 1295, in the reign of Edward I., the attendance of the county and town members became regular, making Parliament really representative of the country. In 1309, in the reign of Edward II., Parliament revealed its possible strength by putting conditions on its vote for taxes. There were other factors at work, however, and one of them at least, because of its importance, deserves to be recalled here. In the chapter on Great Beginnings of Modern Commerce we call attention to the fact, that the Crusades were responsible to a great degree for the spirit of enterprise which led to the formation of the Lombard league of cities, and later to the great Hanseatic League, which seems to have taken at least its incentive from the Southern Confederation. In the chapter on Louis IX. we point out that the Crusades, and his connection with them, far from being blots on Louis's career must rather be considered as manifestations of the great heart of the time which was awakening to all needs, and had its religious aspirations stirred so deeply that men were ready to give up everything in order to follow an idea. One thing is certain, the Crusades did more to set ferments at work in the social organization of Europe than would have been possible by any other movement. These ferments brought about two results, one the uplift of the common people, the other the centralization of power in the hands of the kings with the gradual diminution of the influence of the nobility. While fostering the spirit of democracy on the one hand, they gave birth to the spirit of nationality and to all that this has accomplished in modern history.

Storrs, in his life of St. Bernard, recently issued, has given expression to this thought in a very striking fashion, He says:

"It used to be the fashion to regard the Crusades as mere fantastic exhibitions of a temporary turbulent religious fanaticism, aiming at ends wholly visionary, and missing them, wasting the best life of Europe in colossal and bloody undertakings, and leaving effects only of evil for the time which came after. More reasonable views now prevail; and while the impulse in which the vast movement took its rise is recognized as passionate and semi-barbaric, it is seen that many effects followed which were beneficial rather than harmful, which could not perhaps have been at the time in other ways realized. As I have already suggested, properties were to an important extent redistributed in Europe, and the constitutions of states were favorably affected. Lands were sold at low prices by those who were going on the distant expeditions, very probably, as they knew, never to return; and horses and armor, with all martial equipments, were bought at high prices by the Jews, who could not hold land, and the history of whom throughout the Middle Ages is commonly traced in fearful lines of blood and fire, but who increased immeasurably their movable wealth through these transfers of property. Communes bought liberties by large contributions to the needs of their lord; and their liberties, once secured, were naturally confirmed and augmented, as the years went on. The smaller tended to be absorbed in the larger; the larger often to come more strictly under royal control, thus increasing the power of the sovereign -- which meant at the time, general laws, instead of local, a less minutely oppressive administration, the furtherance of the movement toward national unity. It is a noticeable fact that Italy took but a comparatively small part in the Crusades; and the long postponement of organic union between different parts of the magnificent peninsula is not without relation to this. The influence which operated elsewhere in Europe to efface distinction of custom and language in separate communities, to override and extinguish local animosities, to make scattered peoples conscious of kinship, did not operate there; and the persistent severance of sections from each other, favored, of course, by the run of the rivers and the vast separating walls of the Apenines, was the natural consequence of the want of this powerful unifying force.{2}

As a matter of fact very few people realize how much was accomplished for the spirit of democracy, for liberty, for true progress, as regards the rights of men of all classes, and for the feeling of the brotherhood of man itself, by the Crusades. A practical money-making age may consider them examples of foolish religious fanaticism, but those who have studied them most profoundly and with most sympathy, who are deeply interested in the social amelioration which they brought about, and, above all, those who look at them in the higher poetic spirit of what they did to lift man above the sordid cares of everyday life, see them in a far different way. Charles Kingsley sang in the poem of The Saints Tragedy:

"Tell us how our stout crusading fathers
Fought and bled for God and not for gold."

But quite apart from the poetry of them, from the practical side much can be said which even the most matter of fact of men will appreciate. Here, for instance, are a series of paragraphs from the history of the Middle Ages by George Washington Greene, which he confesses to have taken chiefly from the French,{3} which will make clear something of the place these great expeditions should be considered as holding in the history of democracy and of liberty:

"Christendom had not spent in vain its treasures and its blood in the holy wars. Its immense sacrifices were repaid by immense results, and the evils which these great expeditions necessarily brought with them were more than compensated for by the advantages which they procured for the whole of Europe.

"The Crusades saved Europe from the Mussulman invasion and this was their immediate good. Their influence was felt, too, in a manner less direct, but not less useful. The Crusades had been preached by a religion of equality in a society divided by odious distinctions. All had taken part in them, the weak as well as the strong, the serf and the baron, man and woman, and it was by them that the equality of man and woman, which Christianity taught, was made a social fact. St. Louis declared that he could do nothing without the consent of his queen, his wife. It was from this period that we must date that influence of woman which gave rise to chivalric courtesy, the first step towards refinement of manners and civilization. The poor, too, were the adopted children of the Christian chivalry of the Crusades. The celebrated orders of Palestine were instituted for the protection of poor pilgrims. The Knights of the hospitals called the poor their masters. Surely no lesson was more needed by these proud barons of the Middle Ages than that of charity and humility.

"These ideas were the first to shake the stern despotism of feudality, by opposing to it the generous principles of chivalry which sprang all armed from the Crusades. Bound to the military orders by a solemn vow -- and in the interests of all Christendom -- the knight felt himself free from feudal dependence, and raised above national limits, as the immediate warrior and servant of the united Christendom and of God. Chivalry founded not upon territorial influence, but upon personal distinction, necessarily weakened nobility by rendering it accessible to all, and diminishing the interval which separated the different classes of society. Every warrior who had distinguished himself by his valor could kneel before the king to be dubbed a knight, and rise up the equal, the superior even, of powerful vassals. The poorest knight could sit at the king's table while the noble son of a duke or prince was excluded, unless he had won the golden spurs of knighthood. Another way by which the Crusades contributed to the decay of feudalism was by favoring the enfranchisement of serfs, even without the consent of their masters. Whoever took the cross became free, just as every slave becomes free on touching the soil of England or France.

"The communities whose development is to be referred to the period of the Crusades, multiplied rapidly; the nobility gladly granting charters and privileges in exchange for men and money. With the communities the royal power grew, and that of the aristocracy decreased. The royal domain was enlarged, by the escheating of a great number of fiefs which had been left vacant by the death of their lords. The kings protected the communities, favored their enfranchisement, and employed them usefully against insubordinate vassals. The extension of the royal power favored the organization of the nation, by establishing a principle of unity, for till then, and with that multitude of masters, the nation had been little else than an agglomeration of provinces, strangers to one another, and destitute of any common bond or common interest. The great vassals, themselves, often united under the royal banner, became accustomed during these distant expeditions to submission and discipline, and learned to recognize a legitimate authority; and if they lost by this submission a part of their personal power, they gained in compensation the honorable distinctions of chivalry.

"But it was not the national feeling alone which was fostered by the Crusades. Relations of fraternity, till then wholly unknown, grew up between different nations, and softened the deep-rooted antipathy of races. The knights, whom a common object united in common dangers, became brothers in arms and formally formed permanent ties of friendship. That barbarous law which gave the feudal lord a right to call every man his serf who settled in his domains was softened. Stranger and enemy seemed to be synonymous, and `the Crusaders,' say the chroniclers of the times, `although divided by language, seemed to form only one people, by their love for God and their neighbor.' And without coloring the picture too warmly, and making all due allowance for the exaggerations which were so natural to the first recorders of such a movement, we may say that human society was founded and united and Europe began to pass from the painful period of organization, to one of fuller and more rapid development."

Here in reality modern democracy had its rise, striking its roots deep into the disintegrating soil of the old feudalism whence it was never to be plucked, and though at times it languished it was to remain ever alive until its luxuriant growth in recent times.

{1} Scribners, New York, 1890.

{2} Storrs, "Bernard of Chairvaux," New York (Scribners), 1897, pp. 544-45.

{3} New York, Appleton, 1867.

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