Page 1045

1045 BARBARIAN ASCENDENCY- TRIBES OF THE NORTH.

pleasurable in the barbaric life. It is, perhaps,

impossible for one of our day to appreciate

the full force of this sentiment as it existed

among the primitive tribes of Northern Europe. Personal self-assertion was the most

potent element in the best character of the

times. The life of enterprise and adventure,

filled with every hazard and vicissitude,

bounded by no restrictions of law or customs,

gave full scope and stimulus to the individual development of man. Restraint became

intolerable and liberty a necessity.

Mr. Thierry, in his history of the Norman

Conquest, has contributed a masterly sketch

of the character and dispositions of the people

who laid the foundations of Modern Europe.

The instincts, passions, prejudices, motives,

and sentiments are drawn with a skill and

fervor which leave little wanting to the

completeness of the picture. Though there

was much that was coarse and selfish in

the unrestrained and violent life of the barbarian as he fought back and forth over

the frontier of the Rhine or wandered at will

through the labyrinths of. the Black Forest;

though the chivalrous sentiment for women

did not always preserve him from brutality,

or his profession of honor prevent the perpetration of gross crimes against morality and

the better laws of human conduct, yet there

were many ennobling traits and much moral

grandeur in the strongly personal, even willful, character and life of the barbaric tribes.

It was of vast importance that such an

idea as the personal worth and individual

right of man should be asserted and transmitted to the modern world. In the ancient

states, the importance of men was derived.

In Rome, the honor and rights of the patrician were deduced from the order to which

he belonged. The same was true of every

other rank of citizenship. The individual

was born into society, and took his status

from the body of which he was a member.

Even in Athens, the citizen democrat asserted

his rights as common to the democracy, and

in Sparta every grade of manhood, from the

supreme oligarch to the degraded Helot, derived his relative importance from the social

class to which he was attached.

It thus happened that the liberties of the

ancients, such as they were, appeared to be

deduced from the state-to be conceded by

some of the organic forms of society. With

the German warriors, however, all this was

different. Each member of the tribe claimed

and exercised his rights as his own. They

were not derived, but inherent; not deduced

from some body of which he was a member,

but born with himself as an inheritance which

none might alienate. The barbarian spoke of

his free doom, not of his liberty. His individuality predominated in all the conduct of life.

Whatever compacts he made in society, he

did of his own free will; and any demand

which society made of him was likely to be

resented if the requisition seemed to trench

upon his personal rights and freedom.

The second idea which modern times have

inherited from the barbarian nations is that

of military patronage, or the tie which, without destroying the freedom of the individual,

attaches one man to another. At first, no

doubt, this loyal bond which linked the individual to his fellow existed without respect

to the relative importance of those who were

so united. Soon, however, the tie became

one of gradual subordination. The one

was in the service of the other, and the latter

protected the first. The sanction of the bond

was personal loyalty and devotion-an idea

which, in the course of a few centuries, became a passion throughout Europe, and constituted not only the essential principle, but also the redeeming trait of feudalism. In deed, but for the growing fidelity of man to man, it were hard to discover how human society could have continued to exist in such

an age of decadence and gloom as that into which Europe plunged after the overthrow of

the Roman Empire.

The second and third groups of barbarian

nations, namely, the Slavic and Scythic families, require a less extended notice. The

former division embraced the Bosnians, the

Servians, the Croatians, the Wendi, the Poles,

the Bohemians, the Moravians, the Pomeranians, the Wiltsians, the Lusatians, the Livonians, and the Lithuanians. Of these the more important were the Poles, the