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The Germans are by no means a slavishly disposed people. They were originally the great diffusers of freedom throughout Europe. From them, and the kindred races of Scandinavia, we ourselves derive our freest institutions, or the spirit which has originated them. To such a pitch did the ancient Germans, according to Tacitus, carry their ideas of liberty, that though they chose a leader in war, they considered themselves each naturally equal to him, and except for purposes of present general good, independent of him. He makes Ambiorix, the general of the Low Germans, say that he had no more power over the people than they had over him. He says further, that no man, properly speaking, ruled the Germans, they did just what they pleased ; “Germanos non juberi, non regi, sed cuncta ex libidine agere.” When they conquered a country they divided the whole land equally, and as brothers, amongst them, and each man sat down on his Allod, or property, which he disdained to hold by any human tenure, but declared it his sun fief. That he held it of no power
but the sun.
Hence the latter form of title deed : “ This property received from God, and the glorious element of the sun.”. Neither the state, nor the magistracy, nor any other authority, had a right to molest him in it, or to eject him from it. Every man's house was more sacred than a church. Hence our principle and practice, hence our law proverb, that " every man's house is his castle." To such an extent was this carried that when the community were compelled to punish offenders against it, they never would break open, under any circumstances, a door. The father exerted a sort of patriarchal authority in his own house; and each parish, or particular portion of a district, called a Gemeinde, or Landsgemeinde, common to all the land, assembled every new moon to determine every thing relating to the weal and order of the district. Here every man spoke and judged with equal right, the priest only acting as chairman. But there were others who disdained even this degree of coercion. They lived utterly free and independent on their allod, attended no meetings of the people, and acknowledged no power residing in them. These were termed Wildfange, or Biesterfreie; and of this class were the Berserkers of Scandinavia. When any of these men committed, therefore, any gross offence against the community, the community judged them as enemies, and punished them by stopping up their wells, by burning their houses over their heads, or by
stripping off their roofs; but they never allowed themselves to break open one of their doors. In short, they were as free as the wild creatures around them, as the birds above their heads. Freedom, said Lucan, is a German possession- libertas Germanicum bonum. “It is marvellous," said Florus, “that the Germans already inherit from Nature what the Greeks with all their arts never attained.” And our own Hume says,
“ All that there is now in the world, of freedom, bonour, generosity, and wealth, we owe to these magnanimous barbarians.”
The Swiss and the Norwegians are the only people who retain the substance and most primitive form of this ancient Germanic freedom. “In Norway, from time immemorial," says Mr. Laing, “the finest and most populous institutions have existed, and it is probably from it that we have derived the trial by jury." There is no people on the face of the earth whose present position can be contemplated with such heartfelt satisfaction as that of Norway, according to the description of Mr. Laing. To the present hour they have steadfastly held their ancient liberty. Though cast by the arbitrary politics of Europe into the regal dominance of Sweden, Norway still retains and maintains its free constitution, which makes the people personally independent of the Swedish power. There, every man still lives on his own land; there the press is as free as the winds; and what is most admirable, free from the
foulest of all tyranny, the low tyranny of personal
There not even an aristocracy can lift its head, it has been formally abolished, and the aristocracy of Nature, man in his worth and his virtuous dignity, possesses and enjoys his native land. Industrious, gay, domestic, and care free, so rolls on life in free, wise, and virtuous Norway, the happiest nook of Europe,- perhaps of the world.
But it was not the fate of the main German race to maintain thus happily and honourably its liberties. With Charlemagne was carried their empire to its full extent - an empire embracing threefourths of Europe, the various German States, France, Italy, Holland, and Belgium. The emperor was elective, and limited in his prerogative. There long continued the form of freedom, but the seeds of despotism and dissolution were rapidly growing beneath the form. Charlemagne and his successors prided themselves on being at the head of the Roman empire. It was no longer the Germanic or the French, but the Roman Empire. The Roman law was introduced, with its secret courts, its protocols, and its torture. of executive government, so adapted to the purposes of tyrants, found tyrants in abundance to administer it. The various feudal nobles shot up into princes; they not only elected the Emperor, but they harassed him perpetually with their quarrels and their frequent hostility. The vitals of the
empire were from age to age rent by the vultures of discord. At length the great Thirty Years' War, a war for the extirpation of Protestantism, ravaged the whole country to a frightful and unparalleled degree. Order, freedom, arts and commerce went to the ground, and many of these blessings never again fully regained their ancient growth. A host of petty tyrants were sprung into existence, each wielding the powers of life and death, and exerting more than kingly authority in their own districts. The great body of the population was agricultural, and an agricultural people is too scattered and unaccustomed to union and activity of mind, to resist the acts of usurpation. The history of the German Empire has been that of gradual concession on the part of the people, of steady aggression on that of the princes. The population of the cities were the exception, and their history is a splendid history of combination and bold maintenance of the banner of liberty. But they could not fire with their example the rural inillions.
At length, divided and subdivided into about two thousand provinces and independent petty states, the German Empire was become a perfect rope of sand. It was too tempting to the quick eye of Napoleon: he rushed over the country and laid it at his feet. The history of the princes at this crisis is very instructive. They rose, the chief of them, against their own emperor, and fell into