GUIZOT'S GENERAL HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION IN EUROPE.
THE design of' M. GUIZOT is to describe the nature, to investigate the causes, and to trace the progress of modern civilization. The period which the Lectures embrace commences with the downfal of the Roman Empire, and ends just before the French Resolu- tion,—or, to speak more exactly, with the European results which finally flowed from the Great Rebellion of England and the reign of Louts the Fourteenth. The plan of the lecturer is first to de- fine civilization, noting the difference between that of ancient and that of modern times ; and then to give a rapid and classi- fied history of the institutions and events which have produced the latter; marking the causes and deducing the consequences as he goes along. According to M. GUIZOT, civilization comprises two things,— the social wellbeing of society at large, and the intellectual de- velopment of individual man. The difference between ancient and modern civilization is considerable ; unity characterizing the ancient, and variety the modern. In Egypt and India, for in- stance, the principle of civilization was theocratic : in the com- mercial republics of Asia Minor, the democratic alone was deve- loped: in some countries monarchy prevailed, in others a civiliza- tion was established by force — and the civilization was not only of one kind, but always of a monopolizing nature. On the other hand, in modern society, "all the principles of social organization are found existing together."
" Knee's temporal, powers spiritual, the theocratic, monarchic, aristocratic, sod democratic elements, all classes of society, all the social situations, are jumbled together, and visible within it, as well as infinite gradations of liberty, of wealth, and of influence. These various powers, too, are found here in u state of continual struggle among themselves, without any one having sufficient force to master the others, and take sole possession of society. Among the anci- ents, at every great epoch, all communities seem cast in the same mould : it was now pure monarchy, now theocracy or democracy, that became the reign- ing principle, each in its turn reigning absolutely. But modern Europe con. tains examples of all these systems, of all the attempts at social organization,— pure and mixed monarchies, theocracies, republics more or less aristocratic ; all live in common, side by side, at one and the same time ; yet, notwithstanding their diversity, they all bear a certain resemblance to each other, a kind of family likeness which it is impossible to mistake, and which shows theft to be essen- tially European. "In the moral character, in the notions and sentiments of Europe, we find The same variety, the same struggle. Theocratical opinions, lllll narchical opi- nions, aristocratic opinions, democratic opinions, cross owl jostle, struggle, become interwoven, limit, and modify each other. Open the boldest treatises of the middle age : in none of them is an opinion carried to its final conse- quences. The advocates of absolute power flinch, almost unconsciously, front the results to which their doctrine would early them. We see that the ideas and influences around them frighten them from pushing it to its uttermost point. Democracy felt the same control. That imperturbable boldness, SO striking in ancient civilizations, nowhere found a place in the European system. In sen- timents sue ilkeover the same contrasts, the same variety ; an indomitable taste for independence dwelling by the side of the gleatest aptness for submission; a singular fidelity between man and man, and at the same time an imperious desire in each to do his own will, to shake off all restraint, to live alone, without troubling himself with the rest uf the world. Minds were as much diversified as society. " The satin characteristic is observable in literature. It cannot be denied that in what relates to the form and beauty of art, modern Europe is very inferior to antiquity ; but, if we look at her literature as regards depth of feeling and ideas, it will be found more puwetful and rich. The human mind haa beeu employed upon a greater number of objects, its labours have been inure diversi- fied, it has gone to a greater depth. its imperfection in form is owing to this very cause. The more plenteous and rich the materials, the greater is the diffi- culty of lot eing them into a pure and simple form. That which gives beauty to a composition, that which in works of art we call form, is the clearness, the simplicity, the symbolical unity of the work. With the prodigious diversity of ideas and sentiments which belong to European civilization, the difficulty to Attain this grand and chaste simplicity has been increased."
The leading causes of this variety in modern civilization are three; two of which—the Municipal system and the Christian Church— were bequests from Rome, and one of which—Feudalism—sprung Out of the barbarian invasion. From the Empire Europe inherited the wrecks of the municipal system, and the remembrance of its advantages, which, struggling with inore or less success in various countries, produced the class of burgesses, and has eventually created the people, with all their varieties of grades, fortunes, manners, minds, and pursuits. The Christian Church (the term is used in contradistinction to Christianity as a mere belief) sur- vived the destruction of the Empire in a more organized shape than the municipalities; but basing to struggle with the half- converted barbarians for existence, or at least for its possessions, the clergy were compelled, in self-defence, to establish another characteristic of modern Europe, by obtaining the separation of the .spiritual and temporal power ; mid, quite unconsciously, to lay the foundation of freedom of conscience, by the necessary main- tenance of the doctrine that brute fume has no right to authority over truth. The immediate result of the barbarian invasions was the introduction of personal independence—of the half-sacred feeling of personal liberty, in opposition to the mere poltiical liberty of the ancient republics; u well as of what M. Gutior terms " military patronage, which laid the foundation of a gra.' dilated subordination, and was the origin of that aristocratical organization which at a later period grew into the feudal sys. tern :" though it seems to us rather to have produced that fidelity between man and man, in opposition to the allurements of inte- rest, which has been one of the most distinguishing characteristics of modern times, and which, according to the respective ranks of the persons, takes the name of the spirit of loyalty or the point a honour. The isolating nature of feudalism—which, coupled with the state of society, of necessity compelled the residence of the lord on his own domain, with his own wife, his own children, and his own dependents—gave rise to the tie of family, the modern domesticity of manners, and that feeling of self-reliance, of personal consequence, which BURKE perhaps meant by his " spirit of a gentleman." The principle of inheritance, or of primogeniture, was a necessary result of the feudal tenure, which required the holder of a fief to be capable of bearing arms: and by scattering the people, instead of confining them in cities, it not only countrified the country, but prevented the cities from acquiring that sole power they possessed in ancient times. This result tended to form the nation ; and has removed all danger from the advancing demo- cracy,—which, no longer cooped up in towns, exposed to sudden heats and local prejudices, is a very different thing from that of antiquity, so often though unfairly cited as an example against the claims of the people. Having thus briefly stated the primary causes of modern chili- zation, and the manner in which they were developed, let us mens tion, as briefly, the different divisions of civilization upon which M. GUIZOT considers that they operated. The Church, he holds, was favourable to social development, by causing the abolition of slavery, by improving civil and criminal legislation, by its ten- dency to humanize manners, and (we should think) by its promo- tion of the arts. It was unfavourable to the advancement of indi- vidual intellects except in its own members (although the effects of this could not have been slight); and, though often opposed to tyrannical acts, it was the uniform enemy of political liberty— constantly advocating the absolute power of kings. Tim Feudal system advanced the development of individual character, but was unfavourable to that of the social. The first results of the Municipalities upon civilization were not apparent till a later period; and though M. Guizor, by the figure called anticipation, narrates their general (Acts, he does not say upon which of the branches be considers they acted. We should think upon both, but rather upon the social than individual development ; unless, as our authur seems inclined to do, philosophers, men of science and of letters, and artists, are rated in the ranks of the burgesses, which is perhaps their proper place. In investigating the effects produced by the Church and by the Municipal and Feudal systems upon civilization, M. GI:IZOT in some measure traces its progress down to the twelfth century ; at which period the Church and Feudalism were in their zenith, and the foundations laid of the corporute cities. The first European event distinguished by unity—in which all classes of society and several nations combined together for one common purpose—was the Crusades : a great historical fact, which not only showed that the Western nations had emerged from barbarism, but which also advanced social amelioration by extending comtnerce and national intercommunication, by fostering the growth of the municipal system in the enlargement of the towns consequent upon their increase of wealth, as well as by concentering power in fewer hands through the breaking up of' many of the petty fiefs. The Crusades, however, were yet more favourable to the development of individual intellect, by increasing knowledge, and by opening and enlarging the human mind, as well as by the germs of new discoveries—gunpowder, the compass, and printing—that were imported into the West, to fructify in another age.
Following, and perhaps springing out of the Crusades and the events preceding them, was the growth of Monarchy,—for the kings of the darker ages bad the title rather than the power of a ruler. In his monarchal theory M. GUIZOT is very doc- trinaire; but he is himself again in his narrative of the various unsuccessful attempts made in different countries to organize a state, and in his account of the growth of foreign polity, and of centralization, especially in France, and of the
change which Louts the Eleventh introduced into govern- ment by substituting policy for force, "intellectual for material means." The strengthening of the kingly power, consequent upon these things, may be said to have established absolute monarchy in Europe, as that intellectual insurrection, the Reformation, gave rise to mental freedom. The Great Rebellion—or, as our author prefers calling it, the English Revolution—was produced partly by our peculiar political circumstances, partly by the fermentation in men's minds consequent upon the Reformation; and may be
considered an attempt to abolish absolute power in the temporal order,—and so far as England was concerned, it did abolish it.
The reign of Louis the Fourteenth, according to M. GUIZOT, re-
stored order to France, and established her nationality', by extend- ing her natural territories and calling forth her mental energies. He was also the first monarch .whose wars, whether just or unjust,
were not fanciful adventures, but were undertaken with some serious object; as the Allies, with WILLIAM of Orange at their bead, who opposed themselves to the ambitious projects of Louis, set the first example of an association of states for some definite and politic purpose. The circumstances cons..
fluent upon the English Revolution and the reign of Lours le Grand, have given rise to the characteristic distinction of European states—that they form a government and a people. The combi- nation of the facts, whose successive existence we have tottched upon, has created the civilization of modern Europe.
Such is the leading outline of M. Gutscris views,—divested of the evidence by which he supports, the happy facts by which he illustrates, and the eloquence with which he enforces them. To the execution of his task the author has brought much learning, much thought, much science, much philosophy, and, what is perhaps more effective than all, much sagacity and good sense. lie not only penetrates beyond the forms of things, and detects their inward properties, but, in his potent alembic he extracts, as it were, the essential spirit of philosophical history in many ages and many nations, and, not content with the common images of rhetoric, he draws analogies from physical nature to illustrate and confirm political laws. As a coup d'ceil of European history, and as a treatise on the past growth of European civilization, the book is indispensable to every student of politics or polite letters. To those who would read history with profit, its study is as necessary as is a knowledge of anatomy to them who would advantageously pursue physiological researches.
This is the character of the work as a whole. It is not without defects; and those both of the author and the subject. There is occasionally an undue amount of nationality, and of the French disposition to generalize ; in the more disquisitional parts the thoughts are rather shrouded than expressed ; and the style is sometimes diffuse from over-detailing the leading idea, sometimes
the manner is dry from too vague a generality. In going over so vast a field, much must of course be nakedly told, without those
circumstances which are essential to fulness, spirit, and interest. Hence, events are often mentioned in the sense of terms or catchwords—suggestive rather than expressive; and it is likely that a reader who is not tolerably well acquainted with the history of Europe may, in parts, feel GUIZOT somewhat barren, from his own inability to fill up the outline presented to him.
These remarks, however, only apply to the argumentative parts, or to narratives where proof of some kind is aimed at. And not
always in this case ; as may be seen in the following brief, preg- nant, and striking description of the character of Roman civi- lization, and the spirit of ancient society.
Rome in its origin was a mere municipality, a corporation. The Roman government was nothing more than an assemblage of institutions suitable to a population enclosed within the walls of a city ; that is to say, they were niuni. cipal institutions; this was their distinctive character. This was not peculiar to Rome. If we look, in Oda period, at the part Of Italy which surrounded Rome, we find nothing but cities. What were then called nations were nothing more than confederations of cities. The Latin nation was a confederation of Latin cities. The Etrurians, the Sam- mites, the Sabines, the nations of Magna Grrecia, were all composed in the same way. At this time there were no country places, no villages; at least the country was nothing like what it is in the present day. It was cultivated, no doubt, but it was not peopled. The proprietors of lands and of country estates dwelt in cities : they left these uceasionally to visit their rural property, where they nasally kept a certain number of slaves ; but that which we now call the Country, that scattered population, sometimes in lone houses sometimes in hamlets and villages, and which everywhere dots our land with agricultural dwellings, was altogether unknown in ancient Italy. And what was the case when Rome extended her boundaries? If we follow her history, we shall find that she conquered or founded a host of cities. It was with cities she fought, it was with cities she treated, it was into cities she senecolonies. In short, the history of the conquest of the world by Rome, is the history of the conquest and foundation of a vast number of cities. It is true that in the East the extension of the Roman dominion bore somewhat of a different character ; the population was not distributed there in the same way as in the Western world; it was under a social system, partaking more
• of the patriarchal form, and was consequently much less concentrated in cities. But, as we have only to do with the population of Europe, I shall not dwell upon what relates to that ef the East. Confining ourselves, then, to the West, we shall find the fact to be such as I have described it. In the Gauls, in Spain, we meet with nothing but cities. At any distance from these, the country consisted of marshes and forests. Ex- amine the character of the monuments left us of ancient Rome—the old Roman roads: we find great roads extending from city to city; but the thousands of little by-paths, which now intersect every part of the country, were then un- known. Neither do we find any traces of that immense number of lesser ob- jects—of churches, castles, country seats, and villages, which were spread all over the country during the middle ages. Rome has left no traces of this hind; her only bequest consists of vast monuments impressed with a muni- cipal character, destined for a numerous population, crowded into a single spot. In whatever point of view you consider the Roman world, you meet with this almost exclusive preponderance of cities, and au absence of country populations and dwellings.
The French character impressed upon the work has its ad vantages and disadvantages; and greatly the advantages predominate. Instead of a cold and heavy description, the lecturer frequently embodies the past in a personification, giving life as well as clearness. The following sketch of the ancient municipal system is not only of this nature, but an im- pressive moral lurks under it—the impropriety of jumping to hasty conclusions in history, and confounding forms with substances.
Let us suppose that in the year 17R9, at the commencement of the terrible regeneration of France, a burgess of the twelfth century had risen from his grave and made his appearance amongst us, and some one had put into his hand (for we will suppose he could read) one of those spirit-stirring pamphlets Which caused so much excitement—for instance, that of M. Sieyea, What is the Third Estate? ("Qu'est.ee quirk Tiers1"): if, in looking at this, lie had met with the following passage, which forms the basis of the pamphlet—" The third estate is the French nation without the nobility and clergy," what, let The ask, would be the impression such a sentence would make on this bur- gesias mind? Is it probable that he would understand it ? No; he would not W able to comprehend the meaning of the words "the French nation," because they remind him e no facts or circumstances with which he would be sir counted, but represeat a state of things to the existence of wlaida he is an en- tire stranger : but if he did understand the phrase, and had a clear apprehen- sion that the absolute sovereignty was lodged in the third estate, it is beyond a question that he would characterize such a proposition as almost absurd and Impious, so utterly at variance would it be with his feelings and his ideas of things—so contradictory to the experience and observation of his whole life. If we now suppose the astonished burgess to be introduced into any one of the free cities of France, which had existed in his time—say Rheims, or Beau- vais, or Leon, or Noyon—we shall see him still more astonished and puzzled:
he enters the town, he sees no towers, ramparts, militia, or any other kind of defence ; every thing exposed, every thing an easy spoil to the first depredator, the town ready ta fall into the hinds of the first assailant. The burgess is alarmed at the insecurity of this free city, which be finds in so defenceless and unprotected a condition. He then proceeds into the heart of the town; he in- quires how things are going on, what is the nature of its government, and the character of its inhabitants. Ile learns that there is an authority, not resident within its walls, which imposes whatever taxes it pleases to levy upon them without their consent ; which requires them to keep up a militia, and to serve
in the army without their inclination being consulted. They talk to him about the magistrates, about the mayor and aldermen ; and he is obliged to hear that the burgesses have nothing to do with their nomination. Ile learns that the municipal government is not conducted by the burgesses, but that a servant of the King, a steward living at a distance, has the sole management of their af-
fairs. in addition to this, lie is informed that they are ptubibited from as- sembling together to take into consideration matters immediately concerning themselves—that the church .bells have ceased to anuounce public meetings for such purposes. The burgess of the twelfth century is struck dumb with con-
fusion: a moment since, he was amazed at the greatness, the importance, the vast superiority which the "tiers etat " so vauntingly arrogated to itself; but now, upon examination, he finds them deprived of all civic rights, and in a
state of thraldom and degradation far more intolerable than be had ever before witnessed. He passes suddenly from one extreme to the other, flum the spec-
tacle of a corporation exercising sovereign power to a corporation without any power at all : bow is it possible that he should undeistand this, or be able to reconcile it? his head joust be turned, and his faculties lost in wonder and confusion.
Now, let us burgesses of the nineteenth century imagine, in our turn, that we are transported back into the twelfth. A twofold appearance, but exactly
reversed, presents itself to us in a precisely similar manner. If we regard the
affairs of the public in general—the state, the government, the country, the nation at large—we shall neither see nor hear any thing of burgesses ; they were
mere ciphers. of no importance or consideration whatever. Not only so, but if we would know in what estimation they held themselves as a body, what weight, what influence they attached to themselves with respect to their :alas tions towards the government of France as a nation, we shall receive a reply to
our inquiry in language expressive of deep humility and timidity ; while we shall find their masters, the lords, from whom they subsequently wrested their
franchises, treating them, at least as far as woods go, with a pride and scorn truly amazing : yet these indignities do not appear in the slightest degree to provoke or astonish their submissive vassals. But let us enter one of these free cities, and see what is going on within it. Here things take quite another turn: we find ourselves in a fortified town, de-
fended by armed burgesses. These burgesses fix their own team elect their own magistrates, have their own courts of judicature, their own public assem- blies for deliberating upon public measures, from which none are excluded. They make war at their own expense even against their suzerain—maintain their own militia. In short, they govern themseli es—they are sovereigns.
Our extracts will have ii:cidentally shown the merit and force of this translation of Gomm's work ; which is got up under the tasteful auspices of Mr. Tatuovs.