Page 1239

1239 FEUDAL ASCENDENCY-FEUDALISM PROPER.

warrior father's epic recital of the deeds

done in the fire of his youth. The mother,

too, was in the midst of the scene, still strong limbed and glorious after the battles of

many an expedition and the victorious

struggles of maternity. It was not strange

that woman here and now became the

idol of a nascent civilization, honored, adored,

worshipped as she had never been before.

The sentiment of Ideal Love gained here

an ascendancy over the mind of man, and

about his life began to be woven those magic

cords of chivalrous devotion which he has

gladly and nobly worn for nearly a thousand years. May many another thousand

be added to the past before those strong

and tender cords shall be broken and the

soul of man, so hardly emerged from the

old sins and sloughs of lust, be remanded

again to the level of brutality and the horrid

styles of animalism!

Another circumstance to be noted in connection with the feudal institution was the

growth therein of the principle of inheritance.

The baronial lord naturally looked around

to discover some means or expedient whereby

to preserve in its integrity the estate which

he had won by the sword. The suggestion of

substituting the law of descent for the law

of conquest arose naturally in his mind;

and since the division of an estate among

several sons would have destroyed the very

system which it was intended to conserve,

the principle of primogeniture came in as

the inevitable concomitant of the law of

inheritance. The complication arose with

respect to the younger sons of the feudal

family. What should be done in the case of

him who had the misfortune not to be the

firstborn of the household? The only solution of the difficulty seemed to rest in the

fact that the younger son, if born to the

inheritance of valor and ambition, might

go forth and conquer an estate of his own.

The world was wide. Many provinces still

lay in the waste of half-savagery. He who

would and could, might take and keep a

domain of his own. Missing this opportunity of conquest, the only alternative

remaining to the younger scion of feudalism

was either to win the only daughter of some

sonless baron or to become the hanger-on of

an elder brother.

As it respected the small community of serfs, the government of the feudal lord was

arbitrary and tyrannical. The peasants were

regarded as destitute of rights. All the

powers and prerogatives which modern society has delegated to the magistrate were

exercised and abused at will by the baronial

master. He made the law and executed

it. He levied and collected taxes. He inflicted punishment and treated his tenants

as slaves.

There was thus established over the peasantry of Mediaeval Europe a tyranny the

most galling, as it has been the most persistent,

known in the annals of mankind. The

most bitter hardship of the system lay in

the fact that the despotism of the feudal

baron was personal. He did not pretend

to derive his authority from the consent

of the governed. Neither the concession of

the king nor the permission of heaven was

recognized as a necessary antecedent of his

authority. He ruled in his own right. It

was man over man-the most odious of all

the species of tyranny. Hence has arisen

and continued throughout Western Europe

the deep-seated aversion or positive hatred

of the peasant classes for the system of

feudal domination. Nor can it well be

doubted that the day will come when this

aversion of the subject for the ruling classes

in European society will result in substituting everywhere the government of reason

and consent for the government of personal

will.

The feudal family, as described in the

preceding paragraphs, constituted a part

of a general society. The face of Europe

was dotted with castles. Though the isolation of each was complete, the common

origin and character of all produced a like

situation on the face of Europe. The people

in all parts became divided into lords and

vassals. Ties, first of kinship and afterwards of political interest, were gradually established between the possessors of fiefs. Obligations of service and counter-service stretched

from castle to castle, from province to province, from state to state. The new social condition which had gradually oozed out of barbarism became organic, was converted into a

system. True it is that these ties and obligations, mutually and voluntarily imposed upon

each other and their serfs by the feudal lords,

never became constitutional, never were