Page 1174


emperors. Nor did he fail thereafter to relinquish his title of Patrician of Rome, and

to assume that of Emperor and Augustus.

It can not reasonably be doubted that the

whole tableau and ceremony had been arranged by Leo and Charlemagne on the

occasion of the recent visit of the former to


It was now clear that a principal element

in the mutual admiration of the Holy See

and the king of the Franks was the project to

restore the Empire of the West. The scheme

met with a favorable reception, especially in

Italy, where the Popes and Bishops became

conspicuously obsequious to their great ally

and supporter north of the Alps. It remained for the Emperors of the East to exhibit their jealousy over an event which they

were impotent to hinder. But Charlemagne

could well afford to veil under a kingly

suavity and prudent ambiguity his contempt

for the imbecile rulers of Constantinople.

His communications with the eastern emperors

were accordingly couched in polite and conciliatory language, such as might well turn

aside their enmity or even provoke their

admiration. By such means he avoided

any open rupture with the effete political

power which from the palace of Constantinople still claimed to be the Empire of the


In the internal affairs of his government,

no less than in his foreign wars, Charlemagne

exhibited a genius of the highest order. By

the close of the eighth century, his conquests

had made him master of the whole country

from the Elbe to the Ebro, from the North

Sea to the Mediterranean. Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the northern

parts of Italy and Spain were included in his

dominions. At his accession to power the

diverse hostile tribes inhabiting these wide

domains were but half emerged from barbarism. The Emperor of the Franks imposed

upon himself the herculean task of civilizing

these perturbed nations, and of giving to

them the advantages of a regular government.

It was impossible in the nature of things

that even the masterful spirit of Charlemagne

should succeed at once in giving order and

rest to the barbaric society of Western

Europe. The genius of confusion still struggled with the spirit of cosmos, and the evolution of regular forms was slow and painful. The administration was one of adaptation and expedients. Whatever the Emperor found to be practically available in carrying out his mandates, that he retained as a

part of his administrative system. Whatever failed was rejected. The king struggled

like a Titan with the elements of disorder

around him. Wherever the superhuman

energies of his will were manifested, there

peace and quiet reigned for a season. But

no sooner would the imperial presence be

turned to some other quarter of the kingdom

than the old violence would reassert itself,

and the reign of chaos would begin anew.

The efforts of the Emperor to form his

subjects into a single nation and government

were beset with special difficulties. The people of his empire spoke many languages.

Their institutions were dissimilar; their progress and civilization variable. In some of the

states the authority was in the hands of

assemblies of freemen; in others, military

chieftains held the chief authority. No

fewer than four class distinctions were recognized in society. First, there were the

Freemen; that is, those who, acknowledging

no superior or patron, held their lands and

life as if by. their own inherent right. The

second class was composed of those who were

known as Luedes, Fiddes, Antrustions, etc.;

that is, those who were connected with a

superior, to whom they owed fealty as to a

chief or lord, and from whom they accepted

and held their lands. Third, Freedmen; that

is, those who had, for some signal act of

service or as an act of favor, been raised from

serfdom to a condition of dependence upon

some leader or chief to whom they attached

themselves in war, and near whom they resided in peace. Fourth, Slaves; that is, those

who, being the original occupants of the soil,

had been reduced to bondage on the conquest

of the country, or those who, taken captive

in war, were converted by the captors into


But these classes were by no means fixed.

Many of the people sank from a higher to a lower level, some rose from a lower to a

higher. Weak Freemen would attach themselves to some distinguished leader and become his vassals. Ambitious Antrustions-even Slaves-would not only achieve their

emancipation, but would themselves conquer