Page 1241

1241 FEUDAL ASCENDENCY-FEUDALISM PROPER.

sketched in outline gained possession of almost

the entire social fabric of Western Europe.

France became feudal. As early as the

treaty of Verdun in 843 two princes divided

the Frankish lands with Charles the Bald.

The king of Aquitaine took his portion of

the territories, and the Duke of Brittany

did likewise. The action of Charles in 876,

in recognizing the hereditary rights of his

lords, has already been narrated in the preceding Book. By the end of the ninth

century, twenty-nine great fiefs had been

established in Carlovingian France, and in

the century following the number was increased to fifty-five. During the tenth century the disruptive tendency in society everywhere displayed itself in full force. The ties

between the great dukes and lords on the one

side and the king on the other were either

greatly weakened or wholly abrogated. But

little was wanting to the complete independence of the petty states into which the

kingdom was resolved. In process of time

the only obligation recognized by the lords

and nobles was the insignificant act of fealty

performed by them m the presence of a

shadowy king.

In Germany, also, the break-up under

the successors of Charlemagne lacked little

of completeness. Here Feudalism as a system

became a definite political form, which in

some parts remained with few changes unto

the present day. In the first place, Saxony

and Bavaria asserted their independence. The

Suabian and Saxon dukes became suzerains and united the interests of their subjects with their own. Feudal government-that graduated system of jurisdiction in

which every lord judged, taxed, and commanded the class of persons next below

him-was substituted for that legal system which had been established by Charlemagne.

In England there were symptoms of an indigenous Feudalism as early as the time

of Alfred the Great. Under Canute the

Great all Britain was divided into four

great earldoms. East Anglia was given to

Thurkill; Mercia, to Eadric; Northumbria,

to Eric; while West Saxony was reserved

by Canute. Whether the system thus fairly

inaugurated in Danish England would have

come to full flower and fruitage under the

auspices of the Saxons and the Northmen,

can only be determined by conjecture. At

the time of the Norman Conquest, the institutions of the island were in a semi-feudalized condition. With the coming of William

the Conqueror, the native tendencies were

suddenly arrested. He introduced into England a great central administration, to which

the country had hitherto been a stranger.

He took the lands of the kingdom in his own

right, and became the lord-paramount of

all England. The administrative functions

of the old Saxon and Danish earls were transferred to the sheriffs of the king. Vainly

did the native barons resist the encroachments upon their rights. They were overpowered and put down by the arm of one

more powerful than themselves. Norman

nobles were insinuated into the places of the

expelled Danish and Saxon proprietors, and

the new order was established, which has

remained the basis of land tenure, and, in

some sense, of the general constitution of

England, to the present day.

Having thus drawn an outline of the

feudal system itself-having considered that

peculiar institution in its origin, growth,

and tendencies, and noted the sentiments

and ideas which sprang naturally from

the bosom of that society, forecasting, here

and there, the influences which the system

might be expected to exert on the destinies of modern times-we will now proceed to sketch the social and political progress of the various states of Europe over

which Feudalism asserted its sway.