XVII INTRODUCTION TO VOLUME IV.
By common consent the
historical period subsequent to the Crusades
is considered one of the
most difficult and confused in the pages of burn an progress. Events
whirled round and round.
The epoch was tentative. The consciousness
of Modern Europe, which for the first time
had found self-revelation in the heat of the
Holy Wars, now sought organic expression in
political forms and social institutions. But
the elements of society were suspicious, and
stood asunder. As it respects the actual civil
condition of the Western States in the era
under consideration only a few facts can be
noted with distinctness; the rest can be seen
only in cloud-form and nebula. First, it is
clear that the two centuries succeeding the
Crusades are the times of the emergence and
forth standing of the modern European King.
Until then he was not. His genesis dates from
the hither decades skirting the Holy Wars.
The kings and emperors of the Ancient World
and of the ages preceding the establishment
of Feudalism in Europe were of a type strongly
discriminated from the prevalent styles of
royalty in the last four centuries. The modern type was deduced from feudal chieftainship and enlarged by the Crusades. It was
in the Holy Wars that he who had been a
count or baron became by military growth a
monarch. The smaller lord of the multitude
either perished in battle with the Turks, or
was over-shadowed by his suzerain; the latter
became the king.
While the great leaders of the crusading
hosts were thus augmented in power and
glory, another fact of different sort may be
discovered clearly in the dimness of the age.
This is the emergence of the people. The
people of modern times differ as much from
the corresponding fact in the social and civil
organization of antiquity as does the monarch of today from a king of Persia or an
emperor of Rome-as does Cleopatra from
Eugenie, or Alexander from President Wilson. A true people was a thing unknown
in Ancient History, nor has the fact so-called
received as yet a complete development and
revelation. Slow and painful has been the
emergence of this last great element of civilization. Strange it is that the evolution of
humanity seems to be the only process which
has been resisted instead of aided by universal
nature-that the growth of the social and
political creature is the one growth which
has been retarded and perpetually disturbed
-not indeed by the blind laws of the material
world-but by the artificial restraints and unreasoning hostilities of every thing that thinks.
However the aspect of the Middle Ages
may be presented in philosophic history, thus
much is clear, that to this period of human
development belongs, on the one side, the
genesis of the modern King, and, on the
other, the genesis of the modern people.
These two great facts, associated in the caption, have been taken as the highest generalization possible for the two centuries immediately following the crusading epoch; and
under this heading of People and Kings the
subject matter of the First Book of the present Volume will be presented.
From this historical condition, however,
we turn quickly to another aspect, wholly
different and vastly more exciting. Among
the physical facts which have influenced the
course and character of civilization, the first
place may perhaps be assigned to the Discovery of America. Virtually, one-half of
the world had hitherto lain hidden behind the
Western waters. The people of the fifteenth
and sixteenth centuries did well to regard the
event as the revelation of a New World. At
the first the nature of the great discovery was
but dimly apprehended, and the well-nigh
infinite results which have flowed therefrom
were not discerned at all.