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