Page images
PDF
EPUB

cerning the balance of power, then introduced or rendered general, still influence the councils of nations.

The age of CHARLES V. may therefore be considered as the period at which the political state of Europe began to assume a new form. I have endeavoured to render my account of it, an introduction to the history of Europe subsequent to his reign. While his numerous Biographers describe his personal qualities and actions; while the historians of different countries relate occurrences, the consequences of which were local or transient, it hath been my purpose to record only those great transactions in his reign, the effects of which were universal, or continue to be permanent.

As my readers could derive little instruction from such a history of the reign of CHARLES V. without some information concerning the state of Europe previous to the sixteenth century, my desire of supplying this has produced a preliminary volume, in which I have attempted to point out and to explain the great causes and events, to whose operation all the improvements in the political state of Europe, from the subversion of the Roman Empire to the beginning of the sixteenth century, must be ascribed.

I have exhibited a view of the

progress

of society in Europe, not only with respect to interior government, laws, and manners, but with respect to the command of the national force requisite in foreign operations; and I have described the political constitution of the principal States in Europe at the time when CHARLES V. began his reign.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

In this part of my work I have been led into several critical disquisitions, which belong more properly to the province of the lawyer or antiquary, than to that of the historian. These I have placed at the end of the first volume, under the title of Proofs and Illustrations. Many of my readers will, probably, give little attention to such researches. To some they may, perhaps, appear the most curious and interesting part of the work. I have carefully pointed out the sources from which I have derived information, and have cited the writers on whose authority I rely with a minute exactness, which might appear to border upon ostentation, if it were possible to be vain of having read books, many of which nothing but the duty of examining with accuracy whatever I laid before the Public, would have induced me to open. As my inquiries conducted me often into paths which were obscure or little frequented, such

constant references to the authors who have been my guides, were not only necessary for authenticating the facts which are the foundations of my reasonings, but may be useful in pointing out the way to such as shall hereafter hold the same course, and in enabling them to carry on their researches with greater facility and suc

cess.

EVERY intelligent reader will observe one omission in my work, the reason of which it is necessary to explain. I have given no account of the conquests of Mexico and Peru, or of the establishment of the Spanish colonies in the continent and islands of America. The history of these events I originally intended to have related at considerable length. But upon a nearer and more attentive consideration of this part of my plan, I found that the discovery of the new world; the state of society among its ancient inhabitants; their character, manners, and arts; the genius of the European settlements in its various provinces, together with the influence of these upon

the

systems of policy or commerce in Europe, were subjects so splendid and important, that a superficial view of them could afford little satisfaction; and, on the other hand, to treat of them as extensively as they merited, must produce an episode, disproportionate to

the principal work. I have therefore reserved these for a separate history; which, if the performance now offered to the Public shall receive its approbation, I purpose to undertake.

Though, by omitting such considerable but detached articles in the reign of CHARLES V. I have circumscribed my narration within more narrow limits, I am yet persuaded, from this view of the intention and nature of the work which I thought it necessary to lay before my readers, that the plan must still appear to them too extensive, and the undertaking too arduous. I have often felt them to be so. But my conviction of the utility of such a history prompted me to persevere. With what success I have executed it, the Public must now judge. I wait, not without solicitude, for its decision; to which I shall submit with a respectful silence.

A

V I EW

OF THE

PROGRESS OF SOCIETY

IN

EURO PE,

FROM THE

SUBVERSION OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE,

TO THE

BEGINNING OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY.

SECTION 1.

I.

The effects

View of the Progress of Society in Europe, with respect to

interior Government, Laws, and Manners. Two great revolutions have happened in the political sect. state, and in the manners of the European nations. The first was occasioned by the progress of the Roman power ; the second by the subversion of it. When the spirit of conquest of the Roled the armies of Rome beyond the Alps, they found all the man power countries which they invaded, inhabited by people whom of Europe. they denominated barbarians, but who were nevertheless brave and independent. These defended their ancient possessions with obstinate valour. It was by the superiority of their discipline, rather than that of their courage, that the Romans gained any advantage over them. A single battle did not, as among the effeminate inhabitants of Asia, decide the fate of a state. The vanquished people resumed their arms with fresh spirit, and their undisciplined valour, animated by the love of liberty, supplied the want of conduct as well as of union. During those long and fierce struggles for

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »